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October 26, 2016

Northeastern Brazil Still Waiting for Start of Summer Rains

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

While the weather in most of Brazil has been conducive for soybean planting, farmers in northeastern Brazil have not been as fortunate. Substantive summer rains in that part of Brazil have not arrived as yet and there appears to be little rainfall in the forecast for at least the next ten days.

The area of concern is the western part of the state of Bahia, in addition to the states of Maranhao, Piaui, and Tocantins. Collectively, this area produces approximately 10% of Brazil's soybeans and approximately one-third of Brazil's cotton. Having dry weather until the end of October is not that unusual for this part of Brazil where the summer rains generally arrive later than in the rest of the country, but if the rains don't arrive within 2-3 weeks, the situation could become much more worrisome.

Northeastern Brazil has a semi-arid climate and it is notorious for it's fickly weather patterns. Northeastern Brazil is the driest part of the country and not immune to years of continuous drought. Most of the row crops in the region are grown just far enough west to receive the minimum rainfall needed for crop production.

During the 2015/16 growing season, the crops in the region were severely impacted by dry weather. It basically stayed dry in northeastern Brazil until late December of last year when a few scattered showers started to occur. Then during the month of January, there were excessive rains during the entire month with some areas receiving up to 20 inches during the month. By the time the calendar turned to February, it turned dry again with no more rainfall for the remainder of the growing season. The summer rains in the region only lasted for approximately 45 days or less.

As a result, crop yields last growing season were severely impacted with farmers reporting zero yields for some of the corn production. There are many large corporate forming operations in this part of Brazil who were attracted to the region by cheap land and lower transportation costs due to the region's proximity to export facilities. Many of those corporate farms lost money last year and they have subsequently reduced their crop acreage this growing season.

Farmers in the region are hoping for a better outcome this growing season to partially compensation for a disastrous 2015/16 growing season. It remains to be seen if their hopes will be fulfilled.