South America Calling

Brazilian Soybean Season Starts Slow Amid Spotty Rains

It's been 10 days since the Brazilians have been allowed to plant soybeans in the principal producing states of Mato Grosso and Parana, but fieldwork until now has been slow amid spotty rainfall.

Weather forecasts indicate precipitation will remain sparse for the next month, and there may even be a mini dry spell in early October.

But, unlike last year, rain is expected to return with a vengeance in the second half of October.

"There is some apprehension among producers that there may be a dry spell come October, but it won't be like last year," said Marco Antonio dos Santos, a meteorologist at Rural Clima, a local weather service.

In 2015, Mato Grosso farmers who planted early in September suffered heavy losses after rain stopped and didn't return to many areas until late October.

That contributed to Mato Grosso suffering the first drop in harvested area in six years.

According to the Mato Grosso Agricultural Economy Institute (IMEA), planted area in Mato Grosso will recover marginally to 23.1 million acres in 2016-17.

Planting efforts reached 1.2% as of Friday, said IMEA. That is a bit slow, but not that significant as planting only traditionally gets under way in October.

Rainfall in the top-producing mid-north of the state has been particularly sparse and little is planted there.

After getting caught out so badly last year, many farmers are being super cautious in 2016-17 and will wait for more sustained rainfall.

Rainfall in the key producing regions of Mato Grosso is not expected to top around 2 1/2 inches between now and the end of September, said Santos.

But precipitation is expected to normalize in November.

The real concern is that the weather charts indicate heavy rains will continue into February and March, potentially hampering harvesting of the soybeans and the planting of second-crop corn.

This is a problem typical of years in which aspects of the La Nina weather phenomenon are prevalent.

The outlook for Parana, the No. 2 state in southern Brazil, is slightly more positive. There is more rain in the charts in the second half of September, but heavy, consistent rains are only really expected to start falling in later October.

According to the Parana state agricultural secretariat, farmers in the state had planted 3% of the crop up to Sept. 19, behind the 5% planted at the same stage of last year.

Last year, excess rain caused heavy losses in Parana, especially in the north of the state.

Brazil is on course to produce a bumper crop in 2016-17 with a consensus that the crop will be in the range of 102.5 to 105 million metric tons, up around 5% on last year.



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