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By Karl Plume
CHICAGO, March 2 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co expects to face headwinds from weak commodity prices and currency fluctuations through 2016, its executives said on Wednesday, as the seed and agrochemical company slashed earnings guidance amid a slumping farm economy.
Monsanto shares fell more than 7 percent and are now down almost 30 percent over the past year, which has been marked by a steep decline in grain prices that has slashed farm income and cut spending on inputs like seeds and pesticides.
"It's clear that 2016 is a tough year for the industry and for the company," Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley told Reuters in an interview.
The St. Louis-based company is hoping for a "bounce back" in growth next year with the broader launch of two key seed products, Intacta and Xtend, in North and South America and on expectations for more stable currency markets, he said.
Monsanto earlier cut its earnings guidance and trimmed its cash flow forecast for 2016 in a rare, mid-quarter move, citing crop price and currency pain and pressure from weak prices for generic glyphosate, the main ingredient in its Roundup weed killer.
The company, which has slashed its workforce by around 16 percent since late 2015, does not expect any further job cuts at this time, CEO Hugh Grant told Reuters.
Analysts said the revised guidance was expected given the farm economy slump.
"Monsanto now saying our growth is close to zero is exactly what you expect to see when the farmers are low on cash. And I think that growth level will continue for the foreseeable future," Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard said.
Weak glyphosate prices, with generic product from China recently falling below $3,000 per tonne for the first time, could continue to sting Monsanto, Oxgaard added.
Jefferies on Wednesday cut its price target for Monsanto, which has been mostly left out of a string of consolidation deals in the seed and agrochemical space.
Acquisition opportunities have narrowed for the company after the merger of rivals Dow Chemical Co and DuPont and the purchase of Syngenta AG by ChemChina, Grant said.
"My guess now is that's probably going to be driven for us as much by partnerships or product deals as by any major acquisition. But time will tell," Grant said.
Monsanto shares were down 7.5 percent to $85.60 in mid-afternoon trading. (Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)