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December 8, 2011

Brazil's First Soybeans to be Harvested before Christmas

We just returned from touring Brazil and the one thing that struck me the most was how early and fast the 2011/12 soybean crop has been planted in Brazil. The weather has generally been good and the crop is developing at a rapid pace.

The earliest planted soybeans in Mato Grosso will be ready to start harvesting approximately December 20th. The area where the first soybeans will be harvested is in the municipality of Lucas do Rio Verde in central Mato Grosso. These soybeans are 95-day maturing soybeans that were planted in mid-September. To speed up the maturing process, the farmers will apply a desiccant that forces the plant to drop the leaves and it also dries the pods and seeds. Once the desiccant is applied, the soybeans are generally ready for harvest in 5 to 7 days. All of the early harvested soybeans in Mato Grosso will be followed by a second crop of corn or cotton.

The growing season thus far in central Brazil has been very good. The soybean crop got planted early and the soil moisture has remained adequate since the crop was planted. One concern for the farmers in central Mato Grosso is the fact that the 2011/12 planting occurred in a relatively narrow window which means that harvest will also be compressed into a narrow window starting in early January. There is always the possibility that heavy rain at the time of the year when the soybeans are being harvested, which could cause problems for the farmers.

Others are also thinking about the upcoming soybean harvest because we saw flatbed trucks with combines heading north in Mato Grosso to where the first soybeans will be harvested. Custom combining is a common practice in Mato Grosso where huge tracks of soybeans may need to be harvested in relatively short periods of time and the farmers would rather contract out the harvesting instead of purchasing the multitude of combines that would be needed to complete the job in a timely fashion. The soybean harvest in Brazil will start in the northern regions and work its way southward, just like what occurs with planting.

An early start to the soybean harvest in Brazil also means an early start to the soybean export season as well. I think there will be soybeans in place for export by the end of January and certainly the month of February is shaping up as a big export month. Industry officials are talking about potentially two million tons of soybean exports out of Brazil during the month of February.