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March 14, 2012

Brazilian Corn Production Will Depend on Safrinha Crop

One of the striking features of the growing season in Brazil is just how much safrinha corn they are going to plant in 2011/12. In Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Parana the farmers were planting virtually every acre of early maturing soybeans to safrinha corn or safrinha cotton. In their March report, Conab is estimating that Brazilian farmers will plant 6.72 million hectares of safrinha corn or an increase of 14% compared to last year.

The word safrinha means the "little harvest" in Portuguese, but that is becoming a misnomer in Brazil since the safrinha acreage has grown so much. In Mato Grosso for example, the farmers are going to plant 2.36 million hectares of safrinha corn (+28.5%) and only 0.1 million hectares of full-season corn. Commentators in Mato Grosso are referring to the safrinha corn crop as just the "corn crop" in the state since the safrinha represents 96% of the total corn production in the state.

The corn that we saw varied in height from just now being planted to some safrinha corn already chest-high. The average height of the safrinha corn is probably knee high. We did see some corn that had already pollinated and was filling grain. Those few fields were probably planted very early in January after the first soybeans were harvested.

I thought the general condition of the safrinha corn was very good, at least for now. In general, the plant populations were good and we only saw a few fields in western Parana where the stands were spotty, but in those fields, the corn that had not germinated at the correct time was now germinating since they got some rain.

As good as the safrinha corn looks right now, you always have be careful because this is a risky crop. The rains have been erratic this growing season and they continue to be below the long term normal in most of the areas where the safrinha corn is grown. We were traveling in Brazil for ten days and we did not drive through a single rain shower during the entire time. This is very unusual for this time of the year. There were a few scattered showers on the horizon, but they were very sparse.

Many people were commenting on the sparse rains and worried that the rainy season might be ending early this year. Normally, most of Brazil continues to get rains through April until early May, but it remains to be seen if that is the case this growing season. For the last two years, the last good rain in southern Mato Grosso for example was the first week of April. If that would happen again this year, then the safrinha corn would have a big problem. The safrinha corn acreage represents 44% of the total corn acreage in Brazil and 42% of the expected corn production, so it's a big part of the total corn crop in Brazil