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Brazil farmers eye more corn, soybeans in 2012

Updated: 07/28/2011 @ 9:08am luanag@gazetadopovo.com.br

Brazilian farmers intend to grow more soybeans and corn this year. A survey conducted by a local consulting firm puts 2011/12 soybean plantings at 60.88 million acres, up 1.8% from last year. The increase could be even larger if it weren’t offset by a recovery in corn acres in southern Brazil. With domestic prices as much as 90% higher than last year, farmers in the southern states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul will increase plantings in 2011/12, reversing a three year downward trend. Planted area for this year is estimated at 92.3 million acres in the country, up 5 percent from last year.

Full-season corn planting begins at the end of August and soybean planting starts mid-September in Brazil. Estimates are that full-season corn acreage could increase up to 20% in Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, at the expense of soybeans, as beans and full-season corn compete for the same acres in the southern states.

In Parana, farmers will devote 2.23 million acres to corn, up from 1.86 million last year, a state-wide survey conducted by Gazeta do Povo's (A Brazilian communication firm) Crop Expedition shows. This means soybean acreage will drop 3%, to 11.51 million acres, as higher corn prices encourages farmers to take the opportunity to rotate some of their soybean acres back to corn production.

In the last three years, higher production costs and low prices pushed farmer away from corn, says Jeferson Malluta Luciano, technical coordinator for Coopagrícola cooperative. "To work around the market, many of them left their rotation aside. Now, as prices come back up, they are returning to corn", he explains. A 60-kilogram sack of corn in Parana is selling as high as R$ 28 with a cost of production estimated at R$ 13 per sack. A year ago at this time, the cost of production was lower, estimated at R$ 11 per sack, but the domestic price was also much lower at R$ 14.

"Corn planting may not increase as much around here because we had some quality issues last year, so farmers are not willing to risk it this year. In other regions where there were no weather related problems last summer, however, farmers have big plans for corn plantings this year", says agronomist Juliane Nardelli, a technician with Coopagricola, a cooperative in southern Parana.

More optimistic, Marcelo Martins Pereira, a sales coordinator for a local agricultural input supplier, says that, if prices maintain the uptrend, corn can earn back in a single year the acreage lost over the past two summers. "If the losses in the safrinha corn are really as big as they are saying, full-season corn will gain back all the lost ground in Parana." Over the past two summers, corn acreage declined 25% in the state.

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