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December 21, 2010

Cotton Acreage in Mato Grosso Up 65% Compared to 2009/10

Cotton planting started this month in Mato Grosso and farmers in the state are expected to greatly expand their cotton acreage to take advantage of the record high cotton prices. According to Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea), the state's cotton acreage is expected to increase 65% compared to last year to 700,000 hectares. As farmers head to the field to plant their 2010/11 cotton, the one concern they have in the state is the irregular rainfall pattern that has occurred thus far this growing season.

In addition to high prices, the delayed start to soybean planting encouraged some farmers to forgo some of their intended soybean acreage and wait and plant full season cotton instead. Farmers in Mato Grosso are also expected to plant more second crop cotton as well, which could reduce the expected safrinha corn acreage in the state. Additionally, the amount of safrinha cotton in the state is expected to double this year to 80-100,000 hectares.

The cotton varieties planted as the safrinha crop are generally varieties of cotton that are shorter in height and earlier maturing than the traditional full season cotton varieties. safrinha cotton matures 40 to 60 days earlier than full season cotton allowing it to be planted later after the early soybeans are harvested. The planting window for the safrinha cotton is generally open until the end of February. If the safrinha cotton is planted past the end of February, it could be adversely affected by an early onset of the dry season before the crop is fully mature. Since the safrinha cotton varieties are generally shorter in height, the cotton is also planted in more narrow rows (18-20 inch rows) compared to the full season cotton varieties (30 inch rows).

Safrinha cotton is generally lower yielding than full season cotton, but the lower yields can be compensated for by the fact that the shorter cycle cotton requires one or two less insecticide application, thus saving money on production costs. Even though it might be lower yielding, planting a safrinha cotton crop after the soybeans are harvested allows the farmers to harvest two crops per year from the same field.

After four years of depressed prices, farmers in the state are anticipating good returns on this year's crop. The cost of producing cotton in the state is expected to average R$ 4,200 per hectare or US$ 988 per acre, which is very similar to last year.