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February 21, 2019

Brazil has Three Distinct Corn Crops

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

In recent years, Brazil has become the second largest corn exporter in the world, so the market now pays close attention to Brazil's corn production.

Brazil actually has three distinct corn crops split between the full-season corn, which is planted primarily in southern Brazil, the safrinha corn crop planted after soybeans are harvested, and the corn crop in northern and northeastern Brazil.

The full-season corn crop in southern and southeastern Brazil starts to be planted in August or September after the temperatures warm up and the summer rainy season begins. The two big states for full-season corn production are Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul. Nearly all the full-season corn production is used domestically for the livestock industry, which is centered in southern Brazil. The full-season corn crop accounts for approximately 30% of Brazil's total corn production, but it is not large enough to satisfy domestic demand. As a result, corn must be imported into the region from central Brazil or even from neighboring Argentina or Paraguay.

Brazil's safrinha corn crop is planted after the first crop of soybeans are harvested. The safrinha corn is generally planted during January and February in central Brazil, but planting can extend into March especially in the more southern locations. The safrinha corn is generally harvested between June and August. The vast majority of Brazil's corn exports are from the safrinha production. The main safrinha corn producing states are Mato Grosso followed by Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul. The safrinha corn crop generally accounts for about 70% of Brazil's total corn production.

The third corn crop in Brazil is produced in northern and northeastern Brazil. Much of this corn is produced by small family farmers in northeastern Brazil who use low levels of technology and use the corn for their small livestock operations. Some of the corn in northern and northeastern Brazil is planted early, so it is combined with the full-season corn production. Some of the corn in northern and northeastern Brazil is planted late, so it is combined with the safrinha corn production.

There are about 6-8 million tons of corn produced in northern and northeastern Brazil and Conab allocated about 60% of that to the full-season production and about 40% to the safrinha production. How the corn in northern and northeastern Brazil is allocated is confusing because it depends on when and where it is planted. The corn in that region can be planted at different times depending on when a region receives rain.

Northeastern Brazil always has a corn deficit, so the Brazilian government has programs where they subsidize the purchase and transportation of corn from the center-west region of Brazil to northeastern Brazil. Transporting the corn by truck from Mato Grosso for example to northeastern Brazil, is often more expensive than purchasing the corn in Mato Grosso. Since the small family farmers cannot afford the high cost of transportation, the federal government steps in subsidize the transportation.