May 23, 2016
Explaining Brazil's Growing Seasons and Marketing Years
I have received several questions lately concerning the growing seasons and marketing years in Brazil, and rightly so, because it is quite confusing. Let's look at the 2015/16 Brazilian growing season as an example. The growing season in Brazil is generally considered from October 1st to September 30th. Even though some of the full-season corn was planted last August, it is still considered the 2015/16 growing season. Even though all the safrinha corn was planted between January and March of 2016, it too is considered the 2015/16 growing season.
The marketing year in Brazil is considered to be from February 1st to January 31st. In a "normal" year, soybean exports would start to ramp up in February and then peak in April or May and start to decline in July and August. Usually, all the soybeans are "out the door" by November or December.
The biggest confusion in Brazil concerns the corn crops. Very little of the first crop of corn in Brazil is exported. It is planted in August-September-October-November and harvested in December-January-February-March and virtually all of the first crop of corn is consumed domestically by the livestock industry in southern Brazil.
Almost all of Brazil's corn exports comes from the safrinha corn crop. The safrinha corn is generally planted in January-February-March and harvested in June-July-August. The corn exports from Brazil generally start in August, peak in September-October and then decline in November and December and ultimately end in January - except for this past year. Brazil exported so much corn from the 2014/15 growing season that they were still exporting record amounts of corn in February and March of 2016.
Brazil of course is a tropical country with a year-long growing season, so there is some "fudging" on the front end and back of both the growing season and marketing years. Some farmers in Brazil could still be planting soybeans in December or January while other farmers in Brazil are harvesting soybeans at the same time. Likewise for corn. Some farmers in Brazil will be harvesting their safrinha corn in August and September while other farmers in southern Brazil will be planting their full-season corn.
Side note - let me make understanding the growing and marketing seasons in Brazil even more confusing. Not all of Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere. The Equator generally runs parallel and just to the north of the Amazon River, so areas north of the Amazon River are in the Northern Hemisphere. The northern state of Roraima, which borders on Venezuela, is 90% within the Northern Hemisphere and soybean farmers in that state plant their soybeans in May or June and harvest their soybeans in September or October - just like in the United States. Farmers in Roraima are currently in the process of planting their soybeans and these soybeans would be considered part of the 2015/16 growing season. Soybeans are grown in the cerrado regions of central Roraima and the crop is obviously very small compared to other states in Brazil.