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UPDATE 1-Argentina not planning to cut soy export tax -sources

Hugh Bronstein
Thursday, 5 Dec 2013 | 7:15 PM ET

(Adds currency control context)

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Argentina is not on the verge of cutting its soybean export tax despite market rumors to the contrary and pressure on the government to stimulate international sales, a well-placed source at the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.

"As far as I know, there is nothing," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rumors of a cut in Argentina's 35 percent soybean-export tax started on Wednesday when daily newspaper La Nacion published a story, citing unnamed sources, saying that a temporary cut in the levy was being studied by policymakers.

"It's a rumor, no more," local agriculture consultant Pablo Adreani told Reuters. "I don't believe it because the government needs money too much to consider a tax cut."

At a time of rising global food demand, the South American grains powerhouse is the world's No. 3 soybean exporter, as well as its top supplier of soymeal animal feed and soyoil, used to make biofuels.

But with confidence falling in Latin America's inflation-hit No. 3 economy, central bank reserves have slumped more than 30 percent so far this year to $30.5 billion.

Desperate for greenbacks, the government said farmers are sitting on $6.5 billion worth of soybeans in a bid to avoid exposure to the wobbly Argentine peso. The government has imposed currency controls to slow capital flight by keeping dollars out of the hands of Argentine savers and businesses.

"It's more reliable to save in soybeans than in pesos, which are losing their value by the day," said Adreani, who estimated that growers have stacked up 10 million to 12 million tonnes of soy throughout the country.

The breach between the official foreign-exchange rate and the black-market rate has spiked to 55.6 percent as the government uses central bank reserves to prop up the local currency in the face of capital flight.

Confidence has been battered by Argentina's inflation rate - estimated by private economists at 25 percent - and the government's unorthodox and unpredictable policymaking.

The soy hoarding has increased worries about the lack of foreign-exchange inflows. Despite the mounting pressure, no one in the government could be found on Wednesday or Thursday to substantiate market chatter about a coming export-tax decrease.

A source at the economy ministry also knocked down the rumor.

The soybeans that growers are sitting on are from last season. Argentine farmers have seeded 57.9 percent of the 20.45 million hectares planned for 2013/14 soybeans, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath; Editing by Jan Paschal and Andre Grenon)