Brazil soy farmers start planting expected record crop

Sao Paulo | Reuters — Farmers in Brazil have started planting what may be their third consecutive record soybean crop though progress has been uneven in South America’s largest economy, analysts for two state-level farm institutes said Wednesday.

Parana, Brazil’s No. 2 soy growing state, in southern Brazil has planted six per cent of its expected five million hectares (12 million acres) after abundant rainfall. Meanwhile, planting in top growing Mato Grosso state is less than one per cent complete.

Farmers in tropical Brazil’s grain belt generally try to plant as soon as possible after the government’s three-month ban on agricultural activity ends on Sept. 15 in order to have time to plant a second crop of corn or cotton.

Parana had planted just two per cent of its expected area a year earlier. Southern Brazil is the only soy-growing region in the country to have received above-average rainfall so far in September, according to data from meteorologists Somar.

“This year we have more favourable humidity that has stimulated planting,” said agronomist Juliana Yagushi of Parana state’s farm economic department DERAL.

Parana’s grain areas have completely recovered from a January and February drought in Brazil’s southeast that is still affecting coffee and sugarcane crops, she said. The drought was one of the worst in decades.

In Mato Grosso, which generally accounts for some 30 per cent of Brazil’s soybeans, farmers had sowed just 0.29 per cent of expected area as of Friday, in line with the 0.25 per cent planted at the same time a year ago.

“I think planting has advanced a bit more, probably just below one per cent,” Angelo Ozelame, an analyst for the state’s privately-run farm institute IMEA, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“We are still within the parameters of last year. If the rains don’t start within a few weeks it could be a problem, but for now it is fine,” he added.

Analysts expect a soy crop of between 90 million and 98 million tonnes as the country’s farmers continue to plant new fields with the oilseed. That may be enough for Brazil to pass the U.S. as the world’s top soybean producer.

While heavy rainfall was welcome in Parana, which lost some two million tonnes of soybeans to drought last year, the downpours are beginning to stall field work, Yagushi said. She said heavy rain fell on Wednesday and was expected to continue until Sunday.

Meteorologists do not expect significant rainfall in Mato Grosso until later in October, however. The state has received between 46 and 52 millimetres of rain so far this month, according to Somar.

“From now until the end of the month there will be irregular rainfall in most of the state of Mato Grosso,” said Alexandre Nascimento, meteorologist for local firm Climatempo.

— Caroline Stauffer is a Reuters correspondent based in Sao Paulo. Additional reporting for Reuters by Gustavo Bonato.

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