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45794

Brazil's Soybean Yields = Record-Large Crop

SAO PAULO, Brazil (sfagro.com.br)--Concerns over the drought, which affected soybean plantations in some regions of production in the Mid-West and Northeast of Brazil, and heavy rainfall in the Southern region of the country, are starting to dissipate. As harvesting progresses, soybean farmers are becoming more optimistic. “The weather this year is more favorable for us than during last harvest and according to forecasts should be near normal within the next three months,” says Aurélio Pavinato, CEO of SLC Agrícola, one of the largest grain producers in Brazil.

For the current harvest, the company is cultivating 211,000 hectares (521.392 acres) of soybeans on farms in the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, Bahia, and Piauí. The last harvest produced 650,000 tons of soybean, a figure set to rise to 700,000 tons this season. Yields are also set to improve. “Our target is 53 bags per hectare,” says Pavinato. (That equates to 47,28 bushels per acre.) SLC Agricola's yield for the 2014/2015 harvest averaged 51 bags per hectare (45,50 bushels per acre).

Producer Jorge Schuster, has 200 hectares (494,21 acres) planted to soybeans at the Capão Bonito farm in East Primavera (Mato Grosso) and is vice president of the city's farmers' union, which has 630 member producers. According to Schuster, producers are now more confident. “The crops that had pod fill in January are in good condition; there will be no lost harvest in the region,” he affirmed.  On his farm, Schuster expects an improved harvest. He plans to begin harvesting on February 20 and estimates a yield of 65 bags per hectare (57,99 bushels per acre), far higher than the 55 bags (49,069 bushel per acre) per hectare of last season.

Harvesting
In the state of Mato Grosso, which accounts for over 25% of national production, the weather has been favorable in recent weeks and producers have intensified efforts in the fields. As of Friday, 14.4% of the total planted area, estimated at 9.1 million hectares (22.49 million acres), has been harvested. Compared with the 2014/2015 season, the delay in harvesting was only 2.4 percentage points. According to IMEA, the state agency in Mato Grosso, average yield in Mato Grosso is expected to be down from the 51.91 bags per hectare (46.31 bushels per acre) in the 2014/2015 harvest to 50.37 bags per hectare (44.939 bushels/acre) this season.

In the state of Paraná, the second-largest soybean producing state, harvesting is well under way. According to DERAL, the state agency in Paraná, the planted area harvested has reached 17% vs. 12% for the same period last season. Rio Grande do Sul, the third-largest soybean producing state, recorded heavy rainfall last year and drought in January; this damaged crops and is likely to impact yield. In the North and Northeast regions of Brazil however, where the soybean growing window starts later, the crops have benefited from better weather conditions, with rainfall recorded in January this year.

Record Yields
The scenario which is unfolding indicates that Brazil is set to achieve record soybean production. According to the fifth survey of grain harvest released by CONAB – the national supply agency - on February 4, output was estimated at 100.93 million tons of the oilseed in the 2015/2016 harvest, up by 4.9% on the 96.22 million tons harvested the previous season.

CONAB predict a record harvest marked by a 3.6% increase in planted area with a total 33.23 million hectares (82.11 million acres) planted to soybeans. “Despite specific problems, such as delayed planting, production and yield are expected to be up,” stated CONAB in a recent release.

Crop Conditions
The Association of Soybean Producers of Mato Grosso conducted a technical survey between January 25 and 30 to assess crop conditions, during which technical director Luiz Nery Ribas covered around 2,000 kilometers in the West and North of the state. “The drought has damaged the soybeans. Many producers were unable to plant at the right time,” says the director. “Yet the crops are ripening for harvest, and generally speaking are normal,” he stated.

Producers must exercise vigilance in controlling pests and diseases, given that the moisture favors the growth of fungi. According to Nery Ribas, the technical team also found numerous cases of target spot, aerial blight, and bacterial blight while the presence of whitefly called the attention of the researchers. “The risk now is for diseases that could reduce yields,” affirmed Nery Ribas. “This calls for heightened care and monitoring.”

In Paraná, the current harvest has been marked by above-average rainfall and low light. “Heavy rains are affecting the quality of the harvest. The plants have developed with shallower roots, the weather has hindered the application of pesticides, and there have been numerous outbreaks of Asian rust,” says the economist Marcelo Garrido, from the Department of Rural Economy of Paraná (DERAL). “But, overall, it is considered a good harvest,” he says.

Current estimates for Paraná are average yields of 57 bags per hectare (50.85 bushels/acre), compared with the 2014/2015 harvest of 55.3 bags per hectare (49.33 bushels/acre). The assessment of the harvest indicates that 83% of the crops are rated as good, 15% average, and 2% poor.

Another noteworthy point is that Parana producers are selling their grain earlier. According to Garrido, 34% of the 2015/2016 Parana harvest has already been sold, compared with 12% the same time last year. “The soybean product has become more attractive with a devalued Real. Demand from buyers has increased, and producers were quick to seize the opportunity and boost sales,” says Garrido.

Logistics
The biggest bottleneck in Brazilian agriculture is still logistics. However, the development of ports located in the North and Northeast regions is improving the shipping of grains. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the shipping of grains via the ports of the “Northern Arc” was up almost 54% in 2015. Exports of soybeans and corn via the ports of Itacoatiara (Amazonas), Santarém and Vila do Conde (Pará), Itaqui (Maranhão), and Salvador (Bahia) rose to 20 million tons last year compared to 13 million tons in 2014. “The North corridor has been highly beneficial, and the logistics are now more efficient,” says Pavinato, CEO of SCL Agrícola.

With a record harvest and strengthening of the Dollar against the Real, exporters remain optimistic, stated Sérgio Mendes, president of the National Association of Grain Exporters (ANEC). “The forecasts are good for soybeans and corn. We see no reason why this shouldn't be a good year,” affirmed Mendes. According to Mendes, the entity estimates exports of 57 million tons of soybean this year compared to the 53 million tons shipped last season. “The ports of Santos and Paranaguá are efficient but working close to capacity,” he says. “The extra harvest will be channeled via the ports of the North.”

The major concerns are the road conditions, shipping costs, and possible congestion at the ports during peak harvest. “There may be obstacles along the way. Any event that may arise, such as a strike by the trucker drivers, can hold up exports,” says Mendes. “We face challenges every year.”

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Written by Darlene Santiago, Successful Farming-Brasil Editor

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