Safrinha (second season) corn is always a risky endeavor in Brazil. Brazilian farmers have gotten used to double-cropping their soybeans followed by corn and it has been a major reason why Brazil has shot up to be the main competitor to U.S. exports for both crops during the last two decades.
You can throw in more acreage and corporate farming to the list as well, but double-cropping has allowed Brazil to efficiently use its unique climate for large areas that can only be done in smaller sections of the rest of the world.
The window is tight though. Like most tropical locales, Brazil has a distinct wet and dry season. The wet season lasts roughly September to May, allowing a good soybean crop in the spring and summer, followed by a good front-half to the corn season before turning drier.
Farmers have become very efficient at getting soybeans pulled out of the ground and corn put into the ground with enough time left in the wet season to get into pollination before the rains quickly cut off, letting the corn go through grain fill utilizing full subsoil moisture profiles to finish out the season and harvest under ideal conditions.
If there are any delays, or if the season does not go as planned, catastrophe can occur. That was an unfortunate reality for most of the country's double-cropped areas this season.
As has been well-documented, the soybean season got off to a horribly late start. Rains that usually start in mid-to-late September didn't really arrive until the middle of October, setting producers back three to four weeks. Add in wet weather during soybean harvest, and corn planting was typically behind around a month.
That made it susceptible to the end of the wet season, and winter frosts. And when the rains quickly shut down in late March and early April, the worry set in. Throw in the frosts of late June and early July and production numbers have continued to be reduced every time a new forecast comes out.
Many private agencies are coming in with less than 90 million metric tons (mmt) of total corn production while CONAB reduced its forecast down to 93.4 mmt and the USDA reduced it down to 93 mmt on the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report this week. Frosts were likely left out of these estimates as well, so further reductions are likely.
And the pain does not stop there for Brazil's farmers. With much of the crop still in grain fill if it has not been halted by the latest frost, the one coming up could create more damage. A frontal boundary moving into the region July 15 will get an extra push of cold air July 18-20. This is likely to create more frost issues for the states of Rio Grande do Sul up to Parana and perhaps Mato Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo as well.
A crop that would have been planted a month earlier could have avoided much of the frost damage during these two events, but not all of it. The risks of double-cropping will still be worth the potential rewards as corn and soybean prices continue to be very high going into the 2021-22 market year.
John Baranick can be reached at email@example.com
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