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March 31, 2015

Paraguay Farmers are First and Last to Harvest Soy in S. America

Farmers in Paraguay are the first to harvest soybeans in South America and the last to harvest soybeans. They are first to harvest because they are allowed to start planting as early as the spring weather permits. If the spring rains start early enough, they can start planting soybeans as early as late August. That is not the case in Brazil where farmers are not allowed to start planting their soybeans until September 15th. These early planted soybeans in Paraguay are then ready to start harvesting in December, thus they are the first soybeans to be harvested and marketed in South America.

Paraguayan farmers also plant a significant amount of safrinha soybeans following their first crop of soybeans. It is estimated that farmers in Paraguay planted approximately 700,000 hectares of safrinha soybeans, which if verified would mean that about 22% of the 3,200,000 hectares full-season soybeans in Paraguay were followed by a second crop of soybeans. The safrinha soybeans start to be harvested and marketed in April making them some of the last to be harvested.

Safrinha soybeans in Paraguay usually yield approximately 2,000 kg/ha or 29 bu/ac, but in a good year yields can be as high as 40 bu/ac. Agronomists in Paraguay discourage two crops of soybeans back-to-back due to an increase in insect and disease pressure, but farmers in Paraguay feel soybeans offer a better return as a second crop compared to corn or winter wheat.

The vast majority of the soybean production in Paraguay is concentrated in the southeastern region of the country across the Parana River from the Brazilian state of Parana. Most of the soybean producers in Paraguay are in fact Brazilian farmers who moved to Paraguay decades ago in search of cheap land to expand their production.

Soybeans and soybean meal produced in Paraguay are either transported by barge down the Paraguay River to export facilities located along the Parana River at Rosario, Argentina or they are transported by truck across the state of Parana to the Port of Paranagua in southeastern Brazil. The largest river terminal in Paraguay exports approximately 800,000 tons per year.

Soybean production continues to expand in eastern and southern Paraguay while beef and milk production has been expanding in the more northern regions of the country. The expanding agricultural sector represents 25% to 30% of the Gross Domestic Product of Paraguay.