South America Calling

Spotty Rainfall Worries Mato Grosso Soy Farms

"It's a lottery. One farm gets good rains, but the neighboring farm suffers. It's been like this around here all month," said Laercio Lenz, president of the farm union in Sorriso, Brazil's No. 1 soy town in northern Mato Grosso.

It's the same story across the rest of Mato Grosso and much of neighboring Goias, two states that account for approximately 38% of Brazilian soybean production.

As a result, there are reports of replanting and poor-looking early planted beans across the region.

"Producers are worried about the instability," said Silvesio Oliveira, vice-president of the Mato Grosso Soybean and Corn Growers Association (Aprosoja).

Dry weather in October severely delayed the start of soybean planting in Mato Grosso. So when spring showers returned in early November, field work moved forward quickly. However, the follow-up rain to those early showers has been patchy.

As a result, Mato Grosso's soybean yield potential has already dropped, according to AgRural, a local farm consultancy.

And rainfall will continue to be irregular until the start of December, according to Marcos Antonio dos Santos, meteorologist at Somar, a local weather service, although weather along the spinal BR-163 highway, where there a lot of soybeans, has a greater likelihood of receiving rain.

Mato Grosso is renowned for its heavy, consistent spring and summer rains, which make it an excellent place to grow tropical soybeans. The late arrival of consistent showers has been attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon. The silver lining is that another characteristic of El Nino years is that when rains do arrive, they are abundant. That's good for local beans, as over half the Mato Grosso crop was planted in the first half of November. If it rains well in December and January, then most soy crops, even those suffering at present, will be in excellent shape.

However, rainfall in El Nino years also tends to go on longer.

And with 69% of the state's soybeans due to be harvested before Feb. 29, farmers are also worried excessive moisture will hinder the harvest of the soybeans and planting of second-crop corn.

"Unfortunately, double cropping doesn't give us much flexibility. We just have to hope everything turns out alright," said Lenz.

Brazil is pegged to produce between 98 million and 103 million metric tons (mmt) of soybeans this season, up from 96 mmt last year.

As of Friday, Brazil's soy crop was 60% planted with the crop in Mato Grosso some 77% sown, according to AgRural.



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