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South American Update




Will Brazil plant corn later than normal in 2020?

The soybean planting in south-central Brazil is now relatively on pace with historical averages, but irregular rains in September, October and early November resulted in delays in several states. Those delays are not likely to cause yield losses to the soybean crop, but will result in a narrower planting window for the second corn crop (“safrinha”), which is planted right after the soybean harvest. A later-than-normal harvest will lead to a delayed start to the corn planting and, probably, to an extension of the planting season into March.

How bad is planting in March?
Planting corn in March is not unusual. On the contrary, since the ideal planting window ends in mid-March in several Brazilian regions. But planting in March normally results in more risk, because corn will pollinate under potentially harmful weather conditions: lack of moisture, shorter days and even freezing temperatures in some areas. That’s why farmers are always planning on planting as soon as possible. 

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Logistics drive up costs for Brazilian producers

If you have read my previous article, when I wrote on Brazil’s corn production and the massive export record established this year, a question might have popped into your mind. How on earth is Brazil being able to export so much corn (and soybeans) if the country is well known for its terrible logistics? And, if you are really into the agricultural markets, memories of some famous photos of dozens of trucks waiting in line on some muddy road may have emerged.

Some Brazilian regions still have serious logistical problems, especially when compared to the United States. In 2018, the cost per metric ton to ship soybeans from Davenport, Iowa to Shanghai, China through the U.S. Gulf reached $88.80, according to USDA data. For Sorriso, Mato Grosso (Brazil’s top producer state), shipping soybeans to the same Chinese region, using the Brazilian port of Santos, cost $122.08 per metric ton.

That difference, of course, means that farmers who grow soybeans in Sorriso, located 1,190 miles from the port of Santos, in southeastern Brazil, received less for their production.

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Understanding the Brazil corn crop

Even if the mere idea of visiting Brazil has never crossed your mind, you probably have listened to a song called “The Girl From Ipanema”, maybe in Frank Sinatra’s voice. And what does that song have to do with agricultural markets?

Nothing. But one of its composers, Brazilian Tom Jobim (who sings the song with Sinatra), once said that Brazil is not for beginners. That sentence became a famous and useful way to describe how difficult it is to understand Brazil’s peculiarities. And its corn market is one of them.

As you probably know, Brazil grows two corn crops a year. Well, since last October, it is officially three, but I will write about that third crop another time. For now, let’s stick to the two traditional crops. The first one is planted from September to December and competes for area with soybeans.

Considering that Brazil is now a soybean powerhouse, it is not a surprise that the first corn crop has lost millions of acres over the last two decades.

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More regular rains take Brazil’s soybean planting to 58%

Brazilian farmers had planted 58 percent of their 2019/20 soybean area by Nov 7, according to a weekly survey conducted by AgRural. That represents a progress of 12 percentage points in one week and keeps the new crop planting pace slightly ahead of the five-year average. There is still a delay, however, in comparison to last year.

Favorable weather conditions seen last week took the area already planted to 94 percent in top-producer Mato Grosso, where the soybean crop develops well so far. The only issue, for now, is that the state will not have new soybeans entering the market as early as in the 2018/19 season, when some farmers were already harvesting in late December.

Mato Grosso grows about 65% of Brazil’s second corn crop, which will be planted right after the soybean harvest, in January and February 2020. That means that a good chunk of the Brazilian corn crop will not be behind schedule or have any significant problem caused by delays in the soybean planting.

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South American crop update

By Daniele Siqueira, AgRural

Another crop season is underway in Brazil and things have not started exactly well for soybeans. And a poor start to the soybean crop always fuels speculations about the second corn crop, which is planted in the beginning of the year, right after the soybean harvest, and accounts for about 70% of Brazil’s total corn production and almost the entire corn export program. That’s why many people are already asking about the second corn crop planting window. Is Brazil going to cut its corn acreage in 2020 due to the soybean delay?

By Oct 17, Brazilian farmers had planted 21% of their intended area, compared to 34% in the same period a year earlier and also 21% on the five-year average, according to consultancy AgRural.

In top producer Mato Grosso, the soybean planting caught up after a slow start in September, and about half of its area was already planted by Oct 17.

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