December 9, 2013

Wheat Proposed as Alternative Safrinha Crop for Central Brazil

In recent years Brazilian farmers have greatly expanded their safrinha corn production, in central Brazil, but recent low prices for corn have some farmers looking for alternatives to corn. The production of wheat is being promoted by a number of officials as just such an alternative.

Wheat is the only major grain for which Brazil is not self-sufficient. Currently, 90% of Brazil's wheat is produced in southern Brazil, but research indicates that wheat could also be produced in the cerrado regions of central Brazil either under irrigation or as dryland production.

The annual wheat production in Brazil varies from 5 to 6 million tons and the annual domestic consumption is approximately 10 million tons. Normally, the deficit is made up by importing wheat from Argentina, but the 2013/14 Argentine wheat crop has been disappointing and Brazil has turned to the U.S. to help supply its needs.

To stimulate the production of wheat in central Brazil, legislation has been proposed in Mato Grosso that would start a wheat research fund based on a small tax increase for every ton of flower sold in the state. The money would be used to establish a Wheat Support Fund in the state. The tax would equate to R$ 10 per ton, which is expected to have a negligible impact on retail flower prices

It is estimated that wheat yields in Mato Grosso could be as high as 70 sacks per hectare (4,200 kg/ha or approximately 64 bu/ac), which would be higher than wheat yields in southern Brazil. Conab is currently estimating that wheat planted in the Federal District (where Brasilia is located) is yielding 7,000 kg/ha or approximately 107 bu/ac and it is high quality milling wheat. Wheat in central Brazil would be planted in April-May-June and harvested in August-September-October.

A similar program was put in place many years ago to stimulate cotton production in the state and now Mato Grosso is the largest cotton producing state in Brazil. Scientists feel something similar could happen with wheat if the right incentives were put in place.