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Rain Rain, Don’t Go Away! Brazil and Argentina Still Face Dryness Concerns

In December some areas were relieved by rain, but more is need.

South America’s agriculture heats up during the late and early parts of the year.

This year two of the largest agriculture producers – Argentina and Brazil – have faced challenges with dryness. In parts of central and southern Brazil, the early soybean harvest picked up in January, while parts in the north and northeast required replanting from early-season dryness.

In Argentina, the soybean planting hit 84% complete last week, according to the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange and Soybean and Corn Advisor.

Both Argentina and Brazil have benefitted from recent rains, but the countries will need it to continue falling consistently as the year progresses.

A map of South America

Argentina

With most of the country desperate for rain in the early part of December, Argentina was relieved with a wetter second half of the month.

“They’ve had really good rains,” says AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler. “There’s maybe a few small areas here and there that have missed out, but I would say 80% of the area has had anywhere from normal to above-normal rainfall. The normal rainfall right now is about 3 to 4 inches per month – some areas 4.5 – but mostly 3.5 to 4.5 inches. [In] December, they had anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of rain over most of the growing areas.”

Despite almost all of the country receiving an uptick in rain, portions still lacked rain in late December.

The western and southwestern parts of Argentina’s primary farming areas missed some of the key rain with dryness concerns still persisting in southern Cordoba and La Pampa.

As January passes, rainfall is still expected, but it won’t be as much as late December.

“I think in the month of January, we’re expecting rainfall anywhere from 70% to 80% of normal in the driest areas to about 100% to 120% of normal rainfall in the wetter spots.”

Mohler also points out that Argentina’s summer months (December-February) bring rains that may hit one area hard for a few hours, but it could miss a nearby area, creating differences in crop quality and rain totals in neighboring areas.

Brazil: Fringe Areas

The bad news for Brazil as a whole is the country faced a slow start to planting because of dryness. The good news is parts of Brazil have benefitted from more rain in December. Meanwhile, the smaller farming areas still battle a lack of rain despite a wetter end to 2019.

“In the northeast corner up in western Bahia and Tocantins, they had a slow start to the wet season,” Mohler says. “They really didn’t get going until they got into December. November was pretty dry early. December was dry up there, but it’s been raining up there off and on recently. They’ve had closer to normal rainfall in the second half of December now in early January, but they still have a ways to go to catch up to normal.”

Bahia and Tocantins cover the north and northeast parts of Brazilian agriculture that play less of a factor, but the area provides unique crops like cocoa and fruits.

The outlook for the area reveals bad news for an already dry region, though.

“If you get farther north and east like up into western Bahia and Tocantins where they missed out a little bit earlier, those rains may be a little more variable,” Mohler says. “Some places, if they’re fortunate, they’ll get close to normal, and other areas might only have 50% to 60% of normal rainfall. So I think it’s mostly below in the northeast corner.”

On the opposite end of the country, the southernmost areas lacked the rain Bahia and Tocantins benefitted from. 

Some municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul declared a state of emergency, and area farmers are projecting large yield losses.

Brazil: Core Areas

South and west of Bahia and Tocantins sit provinces that provide more crops for the country. Brazil relies on this area for a majority of its crops, and the country’s been fortunate with more rain recently.

“The core of the croplands – which are Mato Grosso, Goias, Minas Gerais, on south – they’ve had pretty good, pretty consistent rains over the late spring and early summer, so they’re in very good shape in those areas,” Mohler says.

Unlike the northeast, the core of Brazil’s farming should see consistent rains continue as January continues.

“Mato Grosso is the biggest producer, and especially there, I think they have a really good shot at seeing near or above-normal rainfall over the next month, month and a half,” Mohler says.

Late Harvest Effects

The U.S. experienced a late harvest after a late planting season in 2019, exposing more challenges from Mother Nature late in the year. The Corn Belt dealt with cold, wetness, and snow in different areas in the region.

On the flip side, Argentina and Brazil could see a late harvest from a late planting season setting the countries back due to the dryness.

While it’s less than ideal to push back harvest, the impact is lessened in Argentina and Brazil compared with the U.S.

“It’s not probably as great of an impact as you have in the U.S. because you don’t have the quite as great variability in the weather between the summer growing season and the fall harvest season and the winter season where there’s less growing,” Mohler says.

For Argentina, the country doesn’t grow much in the winter (June though August), but Brazil plants a second-crop corn that extends harvest into the winter.

Even with a later harvest, though, the lack of cold and snow dodges most of the problems the U.S. Midwest faces.

“The impact isn’t as great,” Mohler says. “If you have wet weather too far into the fall, it could slow the harvest down, but it’s not like you’ve got cold weather and snow coming. The climate is milder down there during the off-growing season than it is compared with the U.S.” 

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