Weather Woes May Delay Brazil’s Soybean Harvest to Early January

Brazilian farmers may be slower to harvest what’s expected to be a record soybean crop as excess rain in some regions delays preliminary work in the fields.

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By Tarso Veloso and Tatiana Freitas
December 18, 2021 | 02:06 PM

Bloomberg — Brazilian farmers may be slower to harvest what’s expected to be a record soybean crop as excess rain in some regions delays preliminary work in the fields.

Excessive rain and cloudy weather in Mato Grosso, the country’s main growing state, has delayed the application of fungicides and sidelined machines used to dry out the leaves, according to farmers. That has led producers to delay the harvest, initially expected to start unusually early around Christmas, to January.

“We will have some people harvesting after Christmas, but we know others that will wait” to next year, said Leandro Bianchini, commercial supervisor for Coacen, the largest co-op in Mato Grosso. “January 5th we should be running at full speed and in 30 days we should have harvested the bulk of it.”

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With Brazil about to start reaping a record soybean crop, strengthening its leading position in a time of year once dominated by the U.S., any slowdown may throw exporters’ plans into disarray. If the slower harvest delays the crop’s arrival at the ports, shippers may turn to the U.S. for prompt supply.

“The market created an expectation of immediate availability of soybeans in January, but the lineup is not showing this yet,” said Marcos Pepe Bertoni, chief operating officer at Corredor Logistica e Infraestrutura SA at the Tegram grain terminal. “We only have a limited amount of old crop that we need to mix with new crop to ship. When the flows start, it will be challenging to move all this production in such a short amount of time.”

South American soy prices dip below U.S.dfd

The huge volume of soybeans available early February is already being factored into the market, with the cash price for Brazilian soybeans for that month trading below U.S. prices.

Despite the weather hiccups, Brazil’s crop is expected to be 142 million metric tons, according to crop agency Conab, 4% higher than last year and the biggest ever. Farmers are expected to take in record revenue of 1.1 trillion reais ($193 billion), 10% more than last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

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“We will see rains during harvest, which will slow down fieldwork, but the general sentiment is very good,” said Cleiton Gauer, superintendent at IMEA, Mato Grosso’s rural economy institute. “The crop is excellent this year.”

In the South, dryness and heat are the problem, not rain. In the western aide of Parana state -- a region that usually has an early harvest like Mato Grosso’s -- the crop was planted late because of the lack of rain in September and losses are increasing with low soil moisture.

“At this point we don’t know how much is lost, but it’s a lot,” Marco Bonesi, president of the Brazilian Association of Soybeans Growers in Parana. “We will wait to rain to see what will survive.”