South America Calling

Brazil Frosts Damage Specialty Crops

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Temperatures near to below freezing across southern Brazil occurred July 28-29 and are forecast for July 30. (DTN graphic)

Another week, another round of frost for southern Brazil. This week, temperatures are lower than the previous two events. Temperatures as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) have and may occur in the stretch of mornings between July 28 and July 30.

We have talked about the frosts before, but in the context of its effect on corn. The previous frosts have had a devasting impact on the second season (safrinha) corn, which was already having incredible issues with drought. This time around, the frost comes when a good portion of the safrinha corn has already been harvested and much of the remaining corn is mature. While the frosts may give the remaining corn quality issues, yields are unlikely to be affected as much.

What is more concerning is with the previous frost event a week ago, temperatures below freezing may have had significant impacts to the more specialty crops in the region. With temperatures falling near to below freezing across a large portion of the state of Sao Paulo and southern Minas Gerais, areas where coffee, citrus, and sugarcane are more heavily farmed, there could be extensive damage and a shift in farming practices and management.

For coffee, much of this year's crop has already been harvested. However, the trees have likely suffered. That is especially true when you factor in the effects of the ongoing drought. With river levels being the lowest on record, irrigation levels are also low. The frosts will not have an impact on this year's crop. But it is sure to have an impact on next year's crop. Coffee futures have soared in response to the perceived damage.

For citrus, fruits are just starting to be harvested and there are plenty still in the orchards. Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais account for roughly 80% of the Brazil orange production. Typically, orange trees go dormant when temperatures drop below 35 degrees. That is not a large concern at this point in the season as the trees are largely done filling fruits. But the frosts are likely to affect the quality of the fruit, and some later developing fruits may be damaged as well.

For sugarcane, about 60% of production occurs in the state of Sao Paulo. Harvest already occurred in the fall, but the crop that remains through the winter is susceptible to frost and would damage next year's production, much like coffee. There is some talk that producers that are overwintering are trying to harvest as much as they can to limit the impact the frosts would have on next year's production. Damaged canes lose their sugar rapidly and will be harvested to mitigate losses.

John Baranick can be reached at john.baranick@dtn.com

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