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July 21, 2015

El Nino could have a Significant Impact in Brazil in late 2015

Meteorologist in Brazil feel that the current El Nino is responsible for the heavy rainfall across southern Brazil and the situation could get worse as the spring planting season and the winter wheat harvest approaches. According to AccuWeather, this El Nino could end up being one of the strongest in the last 50 years and it is expected to last until at least early in 2016. NOAA estimates that there is a 90% chance that it will last at least through the U.S. winter.

According to meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart with Metsul, an El Nino at this time of the year causes frontal systems to stall out over southern Brazil and persist for extended periods of time resulting in prolonged periods of heavy rainfall. That is exactly what has been happening for the last several weeks in southern Brazil. Rainfall records for the month of July have already been broken in parts of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul and there are still ten days left in the month. In parts of Santa Catarina they received more rain during the first half of July than they normally receive during July, August, and part of September combined!

The most immediate concern from the wet weather is for the harvesting of the safrinha corn and the planting of the winter wheat. The safrinha corn harvest is 25% complete in Parana and 7% complete in Mato Grosso do Sul (see prior article). Farmers in Parana have not been able to harvest corn for about three weeks and they are getting concerned about potential problems with grain quality. It is estimated that 20% of the safrinha corn in Parana will end up with lower quality.

In Parana the winter wheat is 61% planted and in Rio Grande do Sul it is 83% planted, which is slower than average in both states. The ideal time for planting wheat has already passed in most areas of southern Brazil and it is likely that not all the intended wheat will get planted. Farmers are also concerned that the heavy rains are washing away some of their applied fertilizers.

Additionally, the potential for heavy rains going forward could result in increased disease pressure and problems during the wheat harvest in September, October, and November. Wet weather during last year's harvest resulted in a 10% reduction in Parana's wheat crop and up to a 50% reduction in Rio Grande do Sul's wheat crop. Much of the wheat harvested last year in southern Brazil was of such poor quality that it was used for animal feed instead of human consumption.

Conab is currently estimating that Brazilian farmers will produce a record wheat crop of 7 million tons in 2015, but that estimate may end up being too optimistic if the forecast for wet weather verifies. Parana is the leading wheat producing state in Brazil followed by Rio Grande do Sul and these two states combined produce over 90% of Brazil's wheat.