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March 25, 2013

Official Opening of Brazil's Sugarcane Harvest Slated for April 5th

Sugarcane producers in southern Brazil are gearing up for the start of the 2013/14 harvest season. The official start to the harvest will be launched on April 5th in the city of Sao Pedro do Ivai, which is located in northern Parana. Participants in the event will include the new Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, chief of staff of President Rousseff, the governor of the state of Parana, various state and local officials as well as industry and labor leaders.

The sugarcane harvest in the state actually started on February 22nd when a sugar mill in Jussara started processing sugarcane. The mill where the ceremony will be held started processing sugarcane on March 20th and a second mill owned by the same company will start processing on April 1st. The state of Parana is expected to harvest 39.7 million tons of sugarcane in 2013/14 and the total sugarcane production in southern Brazil is expected to be 590 million tons.

During the official opening of the harvest, the state of Parana will initiate a new program called "Alternative Pathways for Agro-Energy in Parana." This program is designed to make it easier and safer to transport sugarcane from the field to the local sugar mills. The trucks that transport sugarcane are very heavy, long, and slow moving and are a safety concern on the local highways. The goal of the program is to offer alternative routes for the trucks so they do not impede existing traffic.

The new state plan will invest R$ 296 million to construct 71 underpasses, 72 traffic circles, 272 bridges, and 107 intersections across the northern part of the state where sugarcane production is concentrated. The state will also invest R$ 70 million per year to maintain existing roads in the region.

The Association of Bioenergy Producers of the State of Parana (Alcopar) has been pushing for these improvements as a way to reduce transportation costs and improve efficiency. The Brazilian sugarcane industry is hoping for a rebound year after several years of poor weather and reduced production.

The sugarcane harvest in Brazil generally takes place between late March and early December. Sugarcane producers generally do not harvest during the peak of the rainy season (December to February) due to wet field conditions. A majority of the sugarcane in Brazil is now being harvested mechanically and the soils do not support the heavy machinery during the rainy season.

Brazil is moving away from hand-harvesting as a way to improve efficiency and also to reduce pollution. If a field is going to be harvested by hand, the dry leaves are burned off ahead of time in order to facilitate the hand harvesting. The pollution from these fires has led to respiratory problems in local communities and it is therefore being phased out.