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With a big crop expected, Brazil’s soybean harvest is slow

Farmers look to sell this year’s crop quickly.

RIO GRANDE do SOL, Brazil -- The soybean harvest in Brazil reached 1.8% of the total surface projected for the 2019/2020 crop, according to Curitiba consultancy AgRural. That is a delay compared with the same period of last year, when 6.1% of the oilseed area was harvested.

Now, in the end of January, is when the harvest speeds up in the state of Mato Grosso. The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) projects that the state will produce 33 million metric tons of soybeans, compared with the expected total of 120 million metric tons out of Brazil this year. The forecast is calling for rains that could delay the process, but local farmers want to harvest and sell the crop off of the combine, due to higher prices.

José Carlos Dolphine, from the municipality of Campo Verde, the central part of the state, planted lots of soybean fields in different times. A significant part of his acres are ready to harvest, but about 30% of the field needs more rain to put combines to work.  

“This was a year with very little rain. Just enough to keep the crop. We had 16 days without rain. In those fields that are more sandy, losses will be seen,” said Dolphine.

Due to the higher value of the dollar, prior to planting, costs increased for Brazilian farmers. In the case of Dolphine, this year’s 9,142 acres, equal to what he planted a year ago, cost 20% more to plant.

In Sorriso, a few hundred miles north of Campo Verde, several farmers planted early and most farmers were able to finish harvest in just 10 days. “We expected to start to harvest by January 2, but we started right after Christmas. Things worked out with the weather,” said farmer Gentil Bavaresco.

Alex Utida from Campo Novo dos Parecis, in the western part of the state, also complained about the lack of rain, but said western Mato Grosso also started harvest.

In states that are farther south of Mato Grosso, significant harvest progress will be seen in February. Specifically in Rio Grande do Sul, where drought conditions were recorded, the soybean harvest will last until April. The state finished planting corn with 20% at germination, 13% at flowering, 28% filling, 26% mature, and 13% are being harvested, says the Rural Institute of Technical Assistance.

The Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rio Grande do Sul updated its losses estimate to 33% of a total of around 6 million metric tons of corn and 13% of the soybeans, but it had affected mostly silage corn – not cash crop. Nevertheless, the drought in Rio Grande do Sul has visible market consequences. This week, the price of a bag of 60 kilograms reached a new record: R$ 53.91 (nearly $12.92) paid to producer.

According to the Center of Advanced Studies on Applied Economics of the University of Sao Paulo, the supply is very low, despite the harvest start. Increasing demand could cause Brazil to import U.S. corn.

A new report from Rabobank foresees that the Brazilian pig production would grow 5% this year with both more demand from the domestic market and the outside world. Exports would grow 15% after the 2019 record of 750,300 tons.

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