March 28, 2013
Heavy Rains in Maranhao and Tocantins Worry Brazilian Farmers
The Brazilian soybean crop is approximately two thirds harvested and the last two regions remaining to be harvested are in far southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul) and northeastern Brazil (Bahia, Maranhao, Piaui, and Tocantins). The soybeans are generally planted later in northeastern Brazil because the rainy season starts later in that part of Brazil.
The soybean crop in the state of Maranhao is approaching maturity and the farmers are now concerned about the excessive rains that have fallen in the state over the last several weeks. They are worried that the seed quality could start to deteriorate if the weather doesn't turn dryer.
The two hardest hit municipalities in the state are Balsas where 100mm of rain have fallen during the last ten days and Alto Parnaiba where 130mm has fallen since March 15th. Dry weather earlier in the growing season had already impacted the soybean crop and now the concern is that excessive rainfall during harvest could impact the crop even further.
The excessive rainfall has not been confined to just the state of Maranhao. In neighboring Tocantins farmers are also complaining about the frequency of the rain and the near constant high levels of humidity. They have already reported that the seed quality has started to deteriorate for some of the early maturing soybeans.
Repeated rainfall when the soybean crop is mature can lead to small, shriveled, and moldy soybeans. These light-weight seeds result in lower yields and the farmers are usually paid less when it is sold to the local grain elevator because the grain company must blend the poorer seed with higher quality seed in order to meet the minimum standards set by importers. Under the worst case scenario, the seed may even sprout in the pods. When that happens, the field is generally abandoned and nothing is harvested.
Conab is estimating that farmers in Maranhao planted 610,600 hectares of soybeans which is up 9% compared to last year. The total soybean production in the state is estimated at 1.6 million tons or 3% more than in 2011/12. For the state of Tocantins, Conab is estimating that 543,200 hectares of soybeans were planted (up 20%) and the total production will be 1.65 million tons or up 19.8% compared to last growing season.
Meteorologists in Brazil believe the heavy rainfall was the result of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone that sat over the area during much of the month of March. In this zone, clouds from both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere mingle together resulting in heavy rainfall. Somar Meteorologiais forecasting that the rainfall will turn lighter later this week and into the first week of April, but heavy rains are forecasted to return by the second week of April