March 17, 2016

Soybean Yields Reduced in Northeastern Brazil due to Dry Weather

Farmers in northeastern Brazil, including the states of Bahia, Maranhao, Tocantins, and Piaui, plant approximately 10% of Brazil's soybean crop. The 2015/16 soybean crop in the region was planted later than normal this year due to dry weather during October, November, and the first half of December. In southern Maranhao for example, the rainfall during November and December was only 10% of normal. They received very heavy rains in January only to see the weather during February once again turn hot and dry.

In their latest assessment of the 2015/16 growing season in Brazil, Conab estimated that the grain production in the state of Tocantins will decline 15% this year. The biggest problem was in the northern part of the state where the rainfall was only 30% of normal. Some farmers in the region did not even bother harvesting some of their soybeans due to the extremely low yields. Dry weather during the month of February was the primary problem because the soybeans were filling pods at that time.

Farmers in southern Maranhao are starting their soybean harvest and reporting yields down 30% compared to last year. Farmers in southern Maranhao planted an estimated 600,000 hectares of soybeans with the expectation of harvesting approximately 2 million tons of soybeans. The average yield in the region is approximately 55 sacks per hectare (47 bu/ac), but many farmers this year are expecting yields closer to 35 sacks per hectare (30 bu/ac).

Northeastern Brazil is one of the new frontier areas for Brazilian agriculture where crop production has been expanding in recent years. The land is relatively cheap compared to other areas in Brazil and the closer proximity to export facilities results in lower transportation costs. The main problem in this area is the fact that the climate in this part of Brazil is borderline semi-arid. The growing season is generally shorter than in other areas of Brazil because the summer rainy season starts later and ends earlier than in other regions.