Corn gained on Friday after the U.S. government forecasted low production in Argentine and Mexico, which may boost demand for U.S. grain used as animal feed.

The Agriculture Department said Argentina, the second largest exporter after the U.S., will harvest 21.5 million tons this season below 22.5 million forecasted in January.

Corn estimates for Mexico, the second largest buyer of U.S. corn in 2007, was reduced to 22.5 million tons from 23.2 million.

Corn futures for March delivery increased by 8.5 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $5.08 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade after an earlier increase to as much as 3.9 percent to $5.19.

Corn prices increased by 1.5 percent this week making it the ninth gain in 10 weeks.

The most active corn futures increased by 27 percent last year reaching a record of $5.2875 a bushel on Feb. 6, due to an increase in demand for the grain used to make ethanol and feed livestock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said U.S. will export 2.45 billion bushels of corn in the year ending Aug. 31, 16 percent above the figure from last marketing year.

Corn sales have increased by 33 percent since Sept. 1, compared to last year.

According to government figures, corn was valued at $33.8 billion in 2006 making it the biggest U.S. crop.