Southern Brazil's Drought Dings Corn, Threatens Beans

Brazil's dry weather hits crops hard.

So just how dry is it in Brazil? Depends on who you talk to.

A few of the earliest fields of super-early beans are being harvested in in places like Sinop, Mato Grosso, right now—but less than half a percent of the state crop is in the bin. Those combines will be followed soon by planters, mostly cotton at first, and then, by mid-month, planter boxes will be filled with second-crop corn. The optimum planting window for second-crop corn in that state closes at the end of February.

Last year, second-crop corn producers there faced a big scare when rain kept many from planting before the calendar page had turned to March. And so one would expect Mato Grosso wouldn't mind a bit of dry weather over the next weeks—though there have been reports of localized issues with dryness already.

But it's the country's southern states that are really burning up.right now. Something like 80% of the state of Rio Grande do Sul's counties are under a state of emergency from the lack of rain. Rio Grande do Sul is the third largest soybean producing state. Up in number-two bean producer Paraná, occasional rains have just not been enough. Corn has been a lot harder hit than soybeans so far, say Paraná producers—but soybean yield losses there were reported at ten percent on Sunday.

Bean yield losses were estimated in the media at 25% for Rio Grande do Sul. The state did get some moisture, though, on January 9. Residents of several counties awoke to a 15-minute hail storm. One assumes they're expecting locusts and the plague next.

Rio Grande do Sul borders on Argentina and Uruguay. In some parts of that state, the corn has gone nearly 50 days without rain, and more than 100 counties have declared states of emergency as a result. Some corn has been abandoned, and the hardest hit was the early corn.

While the beans are better off, the little bit of early beans planted in Paraná state are giving reported yields of 15 to 30 bushels per acre. And beans in Rio Grande do Sul are in flowering.

So what will the damage come to? I asked a producer in Southern Brazil.

"Several cornfields haven't filled out ear to the ends, and so there will be losses," he says. "It's tough to calculate yield losses, as they mount day by day."

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