Dryness worsens in the South as Brazil’s soy harvest reaches 31%

It is Carnival in Brazil, but corn and soybean farmers don’t have time to rest or dance. They’d better hurry up, because time is ticking for the second corn crop planting, which is sown right after the soybean harvest – and this year the soy crop is delayed due to irregular rains in late 2019.

According to AgRural data, Brazilian farmers had harvested 31% of their 2019/20 soybean area by Feb 20, compared to 21% a week earlier, 45% in the same period a year ago and 30% on the five-year average. Top producer Mato Grosso leads, with 73%. Despite excessive rains in some areas of the state, quality issues are not a big concern so far and yield reports remain strong.

Catching up
As expected, the harvest pace finally picked up last week in states that planted later than normal, such as Goiás, Paraná, São Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul. But Brazil’s southernmost state and number 3 soybean producer, Rio Grande do Sul, still is the main concern. A spell of dry weather has lingered in the state since late January and is taking a toll on yields, which had already been damaged by hot, dry conditions in December.

AgRural has already made two cuts to the forecasted production for the state since the beginning of the year and further reductions will be made in March. But, despite the problems in Rio Grande, in early February AgRural raised its soybean production forecast for Brazil to 125.6 million metric tons, a new record.

Strong prospects in other states
In the rest of the country, rains have favored the soybean crop and further yield increases are likely in several states. Those increases are likely to make up for part of the losses in Rio Grande do Sul. Forecast maps show little rain in the state over the next two weeks. For other producing regions, the forecasted rains are welcome in areas where the soybean crop is filling pods, but harvest disruptions are likely.

2nd corn crop planting jumps to 51% in south-central Brazil

Corn producers in south-central Brazil had planted 51% of their total projected area for the 2020 second crop as of Feb 20, compared to 33% a week ago, 69% in the same period last year and 47% on the five-year average. The second crop represents about 70% of Brazil’s total corn production and nearly all the exports, which are concentrated in the second half of the year.

Close to the final stretch in Mato Grosso
Top producer Mato Grosso remains as the forerunner, with 79% of its corn area already planted and with very good development so far. In other states, the planting pace picked up last week, but they still lag behind due to the delayed soybean crop.

Planting window
In western Paraná, the ideal planting window ends this week, but farmers will have to continue planting into March. In other producing areas, the ideal window ends in early or mid-March, but producers will probably keep planting until the end of the month.

Despite the delay, Brazil is likely to plant a larger area this season because corn domestic prices are really strong, buoyed by a heated demand and a weaker Brazilian real against the dollar. If (if!) weather conditions remain favorable over the next few months, Brazilian total production (first, second and third crops combined) might reach 100 million metric tons, as it did last year. But we have to keep in mind that the late planting makes the second crop more susceptible to yield losses caused by dryness and/or freezing temperatures during pollination and grain filling.

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