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February 6, 2014

Dry Weather Impacting Crops in Southern Brazil

Farmers in southern Brazil are concerned about the continuing hot and dry conditions that have enveloped the region since late December. In addition to impacting the soybean and corn crops in the region, the adverse conditions are also impacting the sugarcane and coffee crops as well.

The vast majority of Brazil's sugarcane is grown in southeastern Brazil especially in the states of Sao Paulo (56% of Brazil's total), Minas Gerais (9.1% of the total), and Parana (6.4% of the total). All three of these regions have suffered under record high temperatures and limited rainfall starting in late December and continuing through the entire month of January, which is normally the rainiest period of the summer. The meteorological firm Somar is forecasting only isolated showers in the sugarcane areas of southeastern Brazil over the next three weeks.

The less developed sugarcane, which is scheduled to be harvested during the second half of 2014, has probably suffered the most from the lack of rainfall that has delayed the development of the crop. The short stature plants allow more of the topsoil to be exposed to the strong tropical sun resulting in higher evaporation rates resulting in greater moisture stress. Low relative humidity of the air (as low as 15% recently) has also increased the crop's water demand as well.

As a result, the overall tonnage expected from the 2014/15 sugarcane crop in southern Brazil could fall below initial expectations. Losses will only become clearer once the harvest gets underway in April. On the other hand, the hot and dry conditions will concentrate the sugar content of the crop that will be harvested during the first half of the harvest beginning in April. The sugarcane harvested during the first half of the harvest season is expected to have a higher percentage of Total Recoverable Sugars than average.

During the 2013/14 growing season, farmers in Brazil planted 8.8 million hectares of sugarcane, which was an increase of 3.8% compared to the prior year. Total sugarcane production in 2013/14 is estimated at 659.8 million tons (+12%) with sugar production estimated at 38.8 million tons (+1%), and ethanol production is estimated at 27.6 billion liters (+16%).

Coffee producers are also concerned about the hot and dry conditions, but it is too early to determine the extent of the losses.