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May 4, 2017

Early Onset of Dry Weather Could Impact Safrinha Corn in Brazil

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

When the summer rainy season winds down in central Brazil, the rains usually end first in eastern Brazil and then the dryness progresses westward. Which means that the state of Minas Gerais is the first state to get dry and then the dryness moves into the state of Goias and then eastern Mato Grosso and finally the remainder of Mato Grosso. That pattern is playing out again this year, but the rains are ending earlier than normal and that is having an impact on the safrinha corn in the region.

Some farmers in western Minas Gerais reported their last significant rainfall was 60 days ago, while it has been 40 days without significant rain in parts of Goias and 30 days in part of eastern Mato Grosso.

In northwestern Minas Gerais and eastern Goias the summer rains ended at least a month earlier than normal and it has already had an impact on the safrinha corn yields. The biggest impact will be on the later planted corn. For corn planted in mid-February, estimates are that the yield will be down at least 20-30% or more from what was anticipated.

One of the hardest hit areas thus far has been the municipality of Unai in the western part of Minas Gerais. The last significant rain in the region was 60 days ago and the safrinha corn yield in the region may be down as much as 50% from earlier estimates. Unfortunately, this is the third year in a row of below normal rainfall in the region and farmers are very worried.

Farmers in the region had hoped that their safrinha corn crop would be good enough to at least cover the cost of production, but those hopes have now faded. Local corn prices in the region have fallen to approximately R$ 23.00 per sack (approximately $3.37 per bushel) and at those prices, the corn yield would need to be 6,000 kg/ha (92 bu/ac) to cover the cost of production. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen this year.

A similar situation is unfolding in eastern Goias as well. The summer rains ended earlier than normal in early April and agronomist fear that the later planted corn could suffer yield losses of 20-30% or more as a result. The corn started to suffer moisture stress during the second half of April and it will get worse because the forecast is calling for very little chance of rain. It appears that the summer rains are over and the dry season has started.

Dry pockets have also developed in eastern and southern Mato Grosso, but the bulk of the safrinha corn production in the state is in central Mato Grosso where the growing conditions have generally been favorable thus far. The safrinha corn in Mato Grosso is developing a little ahead of the normal pace and the early corn harvest could start during the second half of May.

According to the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea), during the first week of May, 27% of the corn in the state is in the grain filling phase with some of the earliest planted corn starting to mature. Imea estimates that 78% of the safrinha corn in the state will start maturing by the end of June.

The main corn harvest in Mato Grosso is during the months of June and July and the problem this year might be where to store what is expected to be a record large crop. Many of the storage facilities in the state are still full of soybeans due to the fact that farmers have been very slow to sell their soybeans due to low prices. As a result, a lot of the safrinha corn will be piled outside due to a lack of storage.