OK, first the good news: It rained— finally—over the weekend of January 14 – 15, in southern Brazil. And it was a good rain, too, with farmers in southern Brazil getting three to six inches and more. So most of the soybeans across the region will probably be okay, with plenty of time to recover from the effects of a drought and heat that lingered, as the Brazilians say, like a visit from your mother-in-law. Producers complained of having gone 50 days without significant rain. So there was cause for celebration.
But then there's the bad news. It was too late for just about all the corn in southernmost Rio Grande do Sul. Those who believe there are more rains yet to come are putting some of those fields into beans before month's end. And it was too late for early beans anywhere across Brazil's south.
A couple of states to the north, one Paraná farmer told me he was “down about the (early bean) harvest,” in which he got about 20 bu. per acre against the 50+ he counts on in a normal year.
So severe and prolonged was the drought before the tardy rains of the weekend that Agroconsult—you guessed it, an agricultural consulting company—just lowered its estimate of national bean production for 2011-12. As late as December the consultancy pegged this year's Brazilian crop at 75.2 million tonnes. Now it says production, nationally, will be down to 73.5 million. They've got their national corn estimate down to 61 million tonnes, vs. their December estimate of 65 million.
And that's saying a lot for the local effects of the dry weather, as—trust me on this—there are plenty of farmers further north in this country with sprayers stuck or sliding like a Tilt-A-Whirl over the mud. They're worried about end-of-cycle diseases that come with too much moisture. Three preventive fungicide applications are the norm, and cost of rust prevention could increase with frequent rain.
As one Mato Grosso producer told a reporter, “Those who do a fourth (rust) application can (spend the equivalent of) 1.8 to 2.7 bushels per acre. Plus, many of those producers are concerned about getting the beans out, and following right after with corn, in the rain.
So it hasn't been exactly the perfect production season so far, but producers here—like producers everywhere—hold out hope, despite the dropping estimates of national production. Remember that producer who was bummed about getting just 20 bushels on his usually 50-bushel land? In the next breath, he said, “…but, after this rain, the crops have been coming back, and we're hoping for better yields.”