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UPDATE 1-Brazil speeds up cane crushing, but agricultural yields fall

(Adds report details, comments from Unica, table) SAO PAULO, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Brazil's center-south region sped up cane crushing in the second half of August despite falling agricultural yields as mills confirm damage done by drought this year, according to a report published on Wednesday by cane industry group Unica. Mills in the world's largest cane growing region crushed 43.30 million tonnes of cane late in August versus 33.56 million tonnes in the first half of the month, Unica said. At this time last year, they had processed 39 million tonnes. Sugar production also increased when compared to the previous two-week period, from 1.71 million tonnes to 2.37 million tonnes. But it remained below the output seen for the period last year of 2.54 million tonnes as mills continue with a strong emphasis on ethanol production. Unica said ethanol production reached 2.45 billion liters late in August versus 1.97 billion early in the month and 1.78 billion liters in the second half of August last year. Ethanol sales for the two-week period at 1.05 billion liters was an all-time high. The cane industry group noted in the report a decrease of 9.85 percent in cane yields measured in tonnes per hectare, from 77 tonnes last year to 70 tonnes currently. "This decrease tends to intensify in coming weeks as the harvest advances to areas most impacted by the drought," Unica's technical director Antonio de Padua Rodrigues said in the report. He said that factor, together with a quicker harvesting pace due to the dry weather, will anticipate the end of field work this year. Unica said that 20 percent of the mills already said they plan to end processing one to three months before normal. Detailed figures from Unica's crop report for the second half of July (cane and sugar in million tonnes, ethanol in billion liters, total recoverable sugar-TRS in kg per tonne) can be seen below: BRAZIL'S CENTER-SOUTH - 2ND HALF OF AUG (ANNUAL COMPARISON) 2017/18 2018/19 PCT CHANGE CANE CRUSH 39.07 43.30 10.83 SUGAR OUTPUT 2.54 2.37 -6.85 ETHANOL OUTPUT 1.78 2.45 37.31 TRS (kg/T) 145.53 152.66 4.90 CANE TO SUGAR 46.97 pct 37.64 pct CANE TO ETHANOL 53.03 pct 62.36 pct BRAZIL'S CENTER-SOUTH CUMULATIVE DATA - 2017/18 VS 2018/19 2017/18 2018/19 PCT CHANGE CANE CRUSH 382.85 391.76 2.33 SUGAR OUTPUT 23.34 18.84 -19.28 ETHANOL OUTPUT 15.35 20.49 33.51 TRS (kg/T) 131.93 138.22 4.77 CANE TO SUGAR 48.50 pct 36.52 pct CANE TO ETHANOL 51.50 pct 63.48 pct Source: Cane Industry Group Unica (Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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