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March 20, 2012

Brazil Farmers Increase Safrinha Corn Acres, Weather is Uncertain

The municipality of Sorriso in central Mato Grosso is not only the leading soybean producing municipality in Brazil; it is also now the leading corn producing municipality as well. According to the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea), farmers in the municipality will plant 380,000 hectares of safrinha corn, which corresponds to 63% of the soybean acreage in the municipality. In other words, two thirds of the soybeans in the municipality will be followed by a second crop of corn in 2012.

Imea is estimating that the safrinha corn acreage in Mato Grosso will be 2.42 million hectares, or an increase of 38% compared to 2011. Imea estimates that the statewide safrinha corn yield will be 4,449 kg/ha (68.5 bu/ac) and that the total 2011/12 safrinha corn production in the state will be 11 million tons. Imea estimates for safrinha corn acreage and production in Mato Grosso are more optimistic than the latest estimate from Conab, which estimates the production at 10 million tons.

The yields of safrinha corn in Mato Grosso will eventually be determined by when the rainy season tappers off. The consulting firm Somar Meteorologia is predicting that the rains will end during the second half of April. If that prediction verifies, then the earlier planted safrinha corn should have enough moisture to complete grain filling, but the later planted corn may run into moisture deficits before the crop is mature.

If the corn was planted by the middle of February, it should be OK, but if the corn was planted during the second half of February or in March, there could be moisture shortage.

One of the reasons why farmers in Mato Grosso significantly increased their safrinha corn acreage is due to the severe drought in southern Brazil that resulted in very low full-season corn yields in Parana and Rio Grande do Sul. Once it was evident that full-season corn yields would be sub-par, domestic corn prices strengthened in Brazil and farmers in Mato Grosso wanted to take advantage of the improved prices by planting as much safrinha corn as possible. Additionally, the earlier than normal soybean harvest in the state also allowed the farmers to plant their 2011/12 safrinha corn in timely manor

While the prospects for the safrinha corn crop in Mato Grosso look good for the time being, that may not be the case for the safrinha corn in Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul. Together, these two states generally produce approximately 45% of Brazil's safrinha corn crop. The rainfall during the 2011/12 growing season continues to be very erratic in these two states and the soil moisture in the region is less than ideal as the safrinha corn planting concludes. If the soil moisture in these two states is not recharged before the rainy season ends, there is a high probability that the safrinha corn crop could encounter moisture deficits during the critical pollination and grain filling periods.