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December 19, 2017

Soy Planting in Brazil Complete, Safrinha Corn yet to be Determined

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

Brazil soybeans - There may be a few fields of soybeans left to plant in Brazil, but basically, the crop is completely planted. The most advanced soybeans are flowering and starting to fill pods. In the state of Parana for example, the soybeans are 54% in vegetative development, 37% flowering, and 9% filling pods. The soybeans in Parana are rated 12% average and 88% good.

The soybeans in Mato Grosso are generally flowering with maybe the most advanced crop starting to set pods. The crop this year is not as advanced as the crop was last year, which was very early. Last year, the harvest started in early January with 1.5% harvested by January 6, 2017, 5.3% harvested by January 13th, 11.5% harvested by January 20th, and 16.2% harvested by January 27th. The soybeans in Mato Grosso reached 50% harvested last year on February 17th.

Harvesting in Mato Grosso will not be as early this year. My guess is that the harvest this year will be 2-4 weeks later than last year.

Brazil corn - I have been writing for many weeks that I think the Brazilian corn production could face many more obstacles than the Brazilian soybean crop. The first problem for the Brazilian corn crop is a reduction in the full-season corn acreage and yield. Conab is estimating that the full-season corn acreage declined 9.6% from last year and the yields will be down 9% from last year, therefore the full-season corn production will be down 17.8% from last year.

Conab is estimating the full-season corn production at 25.0 million tons, which would be down 5.4 million tons from the 30.4 million tons produced in 2016/17. Even with the reduced estimate for the full-season corn, I think Conab's estimate is too optimistic because many analysts have the full-season corn acreage down more than 9.6%.

The second problem for the corn is that the early soybean planting was delayed especially in Mato Grosso and Goias, which means the ideal planting window for the safrinha corn is going to be shorter than normal early next year. The best safrinha corn yields in central Brazil are obtained when the crop is planted from mid-January through about the third week of February. If the corn is planted after that date in central Brazil, the yields generally start to decline. The "drop dead" date for safrinha corn planting in central Brazil is March 10-15.

Due to the delay in getting the early soybean planted, it is estimated that 30-40% of the potential safrinha corn acreage would be planted later than desired and as a result, I do not think all the intended safrinha corn acreage will get planted. What are the alternatives if they do not plant corn? The alternatives would probably be grain sorghum, sunflowers, millet, or even a cover crop. There may also be more safrinha cotton planted this year, which could take away some potential safrinha corn acreage.

And lastly, low corn prices are leaving Brazilian farmers with very little enthusiasm for safrinha corn production. The low prices mean that farmers need to produce a very good crop of safrinha corn if they hope to cover their costs. If the corn is planted after the ideal window closes, the corn yields generally decline, so farmers will be very hesitant to plant their safrinha corn later than normal.