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January 24, 2012

Thousands of Farmers File Claims for Crop Losses in Parana

The killing frost in June of 2011 that decimated the safrinha corn crop in Parana convinced many farmers in the state to plant the majority of the soybean acreage this year to early maturing soybean varieties. The goal of planting the early maturing soybeans was to insure enough time to plant a second crop of corn that would be able to mature before another potential frost in mid-2012. Unfortunately for farmers in western Parana, the drought of 2011/12 hit during the exact time these early maturing soybeans were setting and filling pods.

The number of claims being filed under crop insurance illustrates the severity of the problem. The state of Parana has the highest percentage of its farmers with any type of crop insurance of any state in Brazil and yet only approximately 50% of the farmers purchased crop insurance.

The soybean harvest in the state is only 5% complete and already thousands of farmers have filed claims concerning losses covered by insurance. Eight thousand small family farmers have already filed claims and 2,000 commercial farmers have filed claims as well. The number of claims is approximately similar to the 2008/09 growing season when a similar drought cost the state 5 million tons of lost soybean production.

According to the president of the Rural Society of Toledo, which is located in western Parana, 80% of the soybeans planted in his region were early maturing varieties, which suffered from as many as 50 days without rain during virtually the entire pod filling period.

Early harvest results in western Parana are not very encouraging for farmers who had hoped for record production this year. In the hardest hit areas in western and southwestern Parana, some soybean yields are being reported as low as 650 to 1,000 kg/ha or 10 to 15 bu/ac. The soybean yields in Parana are being reported as highly variable due to the scattered nature of this year's rainfall. In areas only 20 miles apart, soybean yields are being reported as low as 11 bu/ac and as high as 50 bu/ac.

In addition to lower yields, the early harvest results also indicate that many of the early harvested soybeans are of poor quality. Many of the seeds are small in size and greenish in color. The green color occurs when the plant is prematurely killed by drought before the seeds have a chance to mature. If there are too many green colored soybeans, the processors reject the load because the green color lowers the quality of the soybean oil.