Big Brazil Soybean Crop Ahead Despite Hiccups

Rain delays won't hurt yields much

My first journalism professor in college said (over and over, during the course of the semester) that Dog Bites Man is not a news story. Man Bites Dog, on the other hand, might be.

And so it is with Ag news back and forth between the world's top soybean, corn and ethanol producers—the U.S. and Brazil. Reading stories about the worst of the worst cases, farmers here could be forgiven for thinking U.S. production would be something close to zero instead of getting yields that looked more like 1995 than 2012.

By the same token, it was scary news when Americans read about combines rolling in Mato Grosso bean fields as early as the start of the New Year—digging into a huge crop that would send world prices spiraling down. But rain came after that, keeping farmers out of those fields of early varieties planted as early as possible. And so by mid-month the estimate of total progress on the 2012-13 Brazilian soybean harvest stayed at a measly one percent or so. Not much of a headline in a story about farmers waiting for the rains to pass, so you probably didn't hear much about it.

That said, there are plenty of bean acres ready for the combine in parts of Mato Grosso. And while the rain delays may drop yields by three percent in those earliest fields, according to one Mato Grosso Ag engineer, they're probably doing some good for those beans that are still flowering or forming pods.

Dry weather in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul had slowed down planting. Farmers there were just parking the last of the soybean planters at about the time those first Mato Grosso producers were rolling out the combines and looking up at cloudy skies.

So no, the Brazilians hadn't managed to harvest more than about one percent of the soybean crop by mid-month. But so far the hold-ups—to main-crop planting in the South, and to early-variety harvest in Mato Grosso—aren't likely to hurt production.

The crop as a whole looks so good, in fact, local consultancy Céleres recently bumped up its estimate of total 2012-13 Brazilian soybean production to 80.8 million tonnes, versus their December estimate of 79.1 million. And that, dear reader, is a Man Bites Dog headline indeed.

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