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July 12, 2013

Rains in Parana Slow Safrinha Corn Harvest and Wheat Planting

Farmers in Parana in southern Brazil had a very wet month of June. During the month, the state received three to five times its normal monthly rainfall. The average June rainfall statewide in the state totaled 368 mm (9.2 inches) compared to the normal amount of 100 to 150 mm (4 to 6 inches). The northwestern and southwestern regions of the state received the most rainfall during June. The wet weather has delayed the harvesting of the safrinha corn crop as well as the planting of the winter wheat crop.

The most immediate concern is the harvesting of the safrinha corn crop. Most of the corn is mature and is waiting for the weather to dry out enough to resume harvesting. The longer it stays wet, the greater the chances of having poor quality grain due to moldy corn and corn germinating in the ear. In May the State Secretary of Agriculture reduced their estimate of Parana's safrinha corn production by 5% and now the quality of the crop may be in jerpody as well. The heavily overcast skies and lack of sunshine have contributed to the quality concerns.

Conab is estimating that the state will produce 10.9 million tons of safrinha corn, which would represent an increase of 7% compared to last year. Farmers in the state planted 2.1 million hectares of safrinha corn or 7% more than in 2012.

Farmers in the state are also in the final stages of planting their winter wheat crop. The biggest risk for the wheat from the wet weather is the possibility of increased disease pressures. Many farmers have not been able to apply preventative fungicide applications due to the wet weather and if diseases get established in the fields, it makes it much more difficult to prevent yield losses.

After years of declining wheat production, Brazilian farmers were encouraged to plant more wheat in 2013 due to strong wheat prices. Farmers in Parana intend to plant 914,000 hectares of wheat, which would represent an increase of 18% over 2012 which ended up being the lowest wheat acreage in the state since the 1980's. The wet weather has resulted in a significant portion of Parana's wheat being planted outside the normal planting window which is April and May and it remains to be seen how this late planting will eventually impact the potential yields in the state.

Brazil does not produce enough wheat to meet domestic demand. Conab is estimating that Brazil will produce 5.6 million tons of wheat and import 6.8 million tons. The traditional source for Brazil's wheat imports is neighboring Argentina, but the government of Argentina has restricted wheat exports for fear that the country could run out of wheat before the new crop is harvested in December. This will force Brazil to source much of its wheat imports outside of South America.