Dry weather delays soybean planting in Brazil, increases risk for corn


Lack of rain since the start of the 2017-2018 season has delayed soybean planting in Brazil's Center-West region, the largest grain producer in the country, boosting worries among producers, industry experts said Monday. Brazilian farmers have sown 10.8% of the total planned area as of last week, below the five-year average of 11.4% and down from 17.3% seen at the same stage in 2016-17, when the weather was nearly perfect for planting across the country, consultancy Safras & Mercado said Monday. An anticyclone has been blocking rains in the Center-West and channeling rainy clouds to the south of Brazil.

Mato Grosso, Brazil's main soybeans producing state, has planted 14.4% of its total area, well under the 31.4% planted one year ago, according to the local farmer's research institute Imea.

"The slow pace in planting doesn't necessarily mean the soybean area or yield will be affected," consultancy AgRural said Monday in a report. The soybean planting period started officially on September 16, as outlined by local regulations.

In southern Brazil, to where most of the moisture is being diverted, rains have been favorable for planting and crop development. In Parana, the country's second-largest grain producer, soybean planting has reached 39% of the total projected area, up from the 29.6% historical average, according to Safras & Mercado.

Brazil, the world's largest soybean exporter, is expected to harvest 109.9 million mt of soybeans in 2017-18, down 3.7% year on year, as yields return to normal after record levels seen in 2016-17, AgRural said.

Weather forecasters expect rains in the Center-West to remain weak and scattered until around October 20, when the high atmospheric pressure should lose strength.

"Rain will become stronger and more widespread over the grain belt in central Brazil by October 21-22. Therefore, a steady rainy season will start 20 days delayed from last year," said Marco Antonio dos Santos, meteorologist at forecaster Rural Clima.

He added that there is a pocket of colder than average water in the Pacific Ocean, which is not strong enough to cause a La Nina phenomenon but was sufficient to cause the delay in rain over Brazil's Center-West.

Delays in kicking off the soybean development may not affect that crop itself, but offers potential risk to corn production. In most parts of Brazil, corn is planted after the summer, as a second crop, immediately after soybeans are harvested. Many producers choose to plant short-cycled soybean seeds in order to sow the second corn crop as soon as possible, in the best weather window, before the start of the dry period.

It is not fully clear how the delay in soybean planting could affect the later corn crop, and this is currently a hot topic among producers.

"Second corn crop yields are a concern ahead of us. We may plant the same area as currently projected, but I'm not sure if the harvest results will be as expected," said Endrigo Dalcin, president of Mato Grosso's soybean and corn producers association Aprosoja.

Recent rain was welcomed by first corn crop producers, which are mostly located in South and Southeastern Brazil. Sowing of that crop has reached 37% of the area expected in those regions, up from a five-year average of 34%, according to AgRural.


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