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February 17, 2012

Safrinha Corn Production Part of Crop Diversification in Brazil

Farmers in southern Goias are looking to diversify their crop production just like farmers are doing in other parts of Brazil. Part of that diversification is to convert pastureland to sugarcane production and part of the diversification is to convert pastureland to row crop production, which basically consists of planting early maturing soybeans followed by a second crop of corn called the safrinha. Safrinha corn production now accounts for over 40% of the total corn production in Brazil.

The state of Goias is considered to be on the forefront of sugarcane expansion in Brazil. While the state current is responsible for only about 5% of Brazil's sugarcane production, it has been expanding in the southern part of the state. The recent expansion has been slowed by a lack of investments in the sugar/ethanol sector, but the Union of Sugarcane Industries (Unica) is hoping that will change in the next few years. In fact, Unica has a goal of doubling Brazilian sugarcane production by the year 2020. Sugarcane expansion in the state usually comes at the expense of pastureland.

The other means of diversification is the conversion of pastureland to row crop production. As new environmental regulations in Brazil make it more difficult to clear new land for row crop production, much of the expansion in soybean production has been through the conversion of pastureland to row crop. Farmers plant an early-maturing soybean variety and then they plant a second crop of corn after the soybeans are harvested.

In 2010/11 the state of Goias planted 458,000 hectares of safrinha corn and that is expected to increase to 573,000 hectares in 2011/12 (+25%). Total corn acreage in the state when both the full-season and safrinha crops are combined is expected to be 960,000 hectares.

Corn has been gaining acreage in Brazil because of the profit potential for the crop and the fact that it can be double cropped after soybeans. Additionally, corn is the main feed ingredient in animal rations and the production of poultry, hogs and cattle continues to increase in Brazil.