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July 12, 2011

Safrinha Corn Suffers Very Significant Damage due to Cold Temps

Reports out of southern Brazil continue to indicate that the frost/freezes took a heavy toll on the safrinha corn crop in the states of Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Sao Paulo. According to the Department of Rural Economics for the state of Parana (Deral), 34% of the safrinha corn crop in the state may have been lost over the last two weeks. Their initial estimate of 8.12 million tons of production has been reduced to 5.31 million tons. They attribute 26% of the losses to the freezing temperatures and 8% of the losses to dry weather during the month of May and into early June.

As much as 75% of the safrinha corn crop in southern Brazil was still in a susceptible stage when the cold weather hit. The planting of the safrinha corn occurred over a long period of time so the crop was in various stages of development when the freeze occurred. For some of the immature corn, it was the equivalent of a freeze in the U.S. in mid-August. For much of the corn, it was the equivalent of a freeze in the U.S. in late August or early September.

The consulting firm Safras & Mercado is estimating that the safrinha corn crop in Parana will be down 2 million tons from earlier estimates (8 million tons down to 6 million tons) and that the total 2010/11 Brazilian corn crop will be 53.2 million tons. They now estimate that Brazil will export 6.7 million tons of corn in 2010/11 compared to 10.8 million tons in 2009/10.

In addition to the damage caused by the initial freezing temperatures, the weather in southern Brazil since the freeze has contributed to the losses. For basically a week after the initial freeze, the weather was cloudy, cold (highs in the low 50's and lows in the upper 30's) and rainy. As a result, the corn never had any chance to recuperate from the low temperatures. The final straw came late last week when a second batch of freezing temperatures occurred again. In the state of Santa Catarina for example, the temperatures got down to -10 degrees celsius (14 degrees fahrenheit) late last week. That is an extremely low temperature for anyplace in Brazil.

After we realized that much of the safrinha corn crop in Brazil would be planted outside the ideal planting window which closes about February 20 in central Brazil, I put my initial estimate of the Brazilian corn crop at 51.0 million tons. I was concerned about potential dry weather in Mato Grosso and cold weather in southern Brazil. The fear of dry weather was confirmed when the rains in Mato Grosso ended about a month earlier than normal. Unfortunately, the fear of cold temperatures in southern Brazil has now also been confirmed as well.

My initial estimate for the Brazilian corn crop was 51 million tons until the first week of May when I increased it 1.0 million tons to 52.0 due to increased safrinha corn acreage in Parana. I stayed at 52.0 million tons until a surprising rain occurred in Mato Grosso during the second week of June when I increased it another 1.0 million to 53.0 million tons and I have been at 53.0 since that time. I am going to stay at 53.0 million tons for the time being, but there is a possibility that the estimate could eventually move 1-2 million tons lower. Whenever there is freeze damage to the corn crop, you need to wait for actual yield results before a final yield determination can be made.

In addition to impacting the safrinha corn crop, the cold temperatures also impacted the wheat crop in the state (down 8% according to Deral), as well as coffee, fruit crops, horticultural crops and even pastures.

How cold was it in southern Brazil last week? It got so cold that an escaped prisoner asked to be put back in jail! Apparently a 36 year old man who had served half of his five year prison term for drug dealing was temporarily out of jail on a work-release program and he failed to return to serve the remainder of his sentence until the cold weather hit. He was living on the street and he did not have any relatives in town. He asked to be put back in jail so he could warm up! True story (I think).