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August 29, 2019

Farmers in Parana trying to Revive Cotton Production

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Cotton production continues to increase in Brazil to the point now that Brazil is the second leading cotton exporter after the United States. Most of the increased cotton acreage in recent years has occurred in the state of Mato Grosso where the vast majority of the cotton is now grown as a second crop following soybeans.

That has not always been the case. In fact, several decades ago, the state of Parana was responsible for about half of Brazil's cotton production, but production in the state shrank to almost nothing in recent years. Some farmers in Parana are now trying to revive cotton production in the state.

Since 2015, the Cotton Producers of Parana (Acopar) have been working with the Brazilian Cotton Institute (IBA) and state entities such as the Agronomy Institute of Parana (Iapar), Embrapa, cooperatives, and private companies in an effort to revive cotton production in the state.

Acopar feels that cotton can be produced profitably in the state and the crop could be an alternative to corn or soybean production. If a farmer can achieve good yields, cotton could be twice as profitable as soybeans.

The main reason why cotton essentially disappeared from the state was the difficulty in controlling the boll weevil. Interestingly, even though cotton had not been grown in some areas of Parana for more than 20 years, as soon as the crop was planted once again, the boll weevil came back in force. Fortunately, farmers have better tools today to control the pest. Agronomist acknowledge that the pest will never be eliminated, but they are confident that it is controllable.

During the 1991/92 growing season farmers in Parana planted 704,000 hectares of cotton and harvested nearly one million tons of cotton. Seven years later, the acreage had declined to 48,300 hectares and the production was 100,000 tons. In recent years, the acreage declined even further to approximately 1,000 hectares.

With the demise of cotton, all the industries associated with cotton also disappeared. The little cotton produced today in the state is processed in the neighboring state of Sao Paulo. Another big change today is the fact that cotton is mechanically harvested. Previously, the cotton was harvested by hand, which meant that approximately 235,000 jobs in the state were associated with cotton production.

It remains to be seen how successful the cotton revival will be in Parana. The farmers that are now planting cotton in the state are facing a learning curve with this new crop. Some farmers are reporting success and they are making money with their cotton, while others are still trying to achieve yields high enough to cover the high cost of production.