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February 6, 2012

La Nina Continues to Negatively Impact Crops in Southern Brazil

Even though the current La Nina is considered moderate in strength, it continues to have a severe impact on the corn and soybean crops in southern Brazil. In the state of Parana, which is the largest corn producing state in Brazil and the second largest soybean producer, the rainfall this growing season has varied widely depending on the location within the state.

In the central and eastern part of the state, the rainfall has been quite good and well distributed, but that cannot be said about the southwest, west, and northern regions of the state where the rainfall has been very irregular and much below normal. In some areas of western Parana, there was a period of up to 50 days without any significant rainfall at all. Unfortunately, most of the corn and soybean production is in the areas of the state where it has been the driest.

The major crop in the state is soybeans and the dry weather was particularly detrimental for the early-maturing soybeans. Many farmers in the state planted a majority of their soybean acreage to earl-maturing varieties so that they could be harvested early enough to allow enough time to plant a second crop of corn called the safrinha. Unfortunately, these early maturing soybeans were filling pods exactly at the time when it was the driest. The dry conditions also accelerated the rate of maturity of the crop and many of the soybeans are maturing 10-14 days earlier than normal. As expected, early soybean yields have been very disappointing, but there is hope that the later maturing soybeans will be better yielding. Soybean production in the state is expected to be down 15% or more.

The corn crop in the state did not fare any better and the total full-season corn production in the state is expected to be similar to last year in spite of a 22% increase in full-season corn acreage.

The situation in Rio Grande do Sul has been even worse than in Parana and the general lack of moisture has been afflicting the state since November. Even though there were some showers in the state over the weekend, 340 of the 497 municipalities in the state (70%) have declared a state of emergency due to the drought. The eastern part of the state has received the most moisture and the western part has been the driest. Unfortunately, the majority of the corn and soybeans are grown in the western and northern parts of the state where it has been the driest.

The dry weather severely impacted the corn crop which was pollinating and filling grain during the peak of the dryness. The corn crop in the state is expected to be down 45% and some corn fields are considered a complete loss. Individual farmers have taken advantage of the recent rains to replant some of their corn, but any corn planted now would only be used for silage or forage to supplement the lack of pastures. Small dairy farmers are doing most of the replanting because they cannot afford to purchase feed for their small dairy herds. The total corn production in the state is expected to be down approximately 45%.

Rio Grande do Sul is the third leading soybean producing state in Brazil and the soybeans in the state are the latest developing soybeans in Brazil due to their late planting. Therefore, the fortunes of the crop could still go either way as the crop continues to develop. Currently, 29% of the soybeans in the state are in vegetative development, 48% are flowering, and 23% are filling pods. There has already been damage done to the crop and the state's soybean production is expected to be down 15% or more depending on the amount of rainfall received over the next five weeks as the crop completes filling pods.

The current La Nina is a double-dip event after last year's La Nina which was considered much stronger. Even though this La Nina was considered moderate in strength, it has caused more disruptions in South American crop production than the last La Nina, which was considered to be stronger. Most meteorologist are expecting that the La Nina will gradually weaken over the next several months, but the rainfall in southern Brazil is expected to continue to be below normal and irregular for the next several months.