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November 21, 2012

Drought Worries Reemerge in Southern Brazil

The weather thus far this early growing season has not been very good in southern Brazil and now there is speculation that another drought may be on the verge of developing in the region. Over the last several months, farmers in Rio Grande do Sul have endured heavy rains, strong winds, hail, and several episodes of freezing temperatures. A month ago, farmers were wondering if the soils would ever dry out enough to allow them to harvesting their wheat and to plant their spring crops. Once the rains ended, they ended, and now farmers are concerned about dry conditions.

According to the Agronomic Institute of the state of Parana (Iapar), the soils in many areas of Parana now contain just 25% of their potential water holding capacity, when normally this time of the year, the soils should contain 75% of their potential water holding capacity. The Brazilian National Metrological Institute (Inmet) is forecasting that in the near term there will be a lack of strong frontal systems bringing generalized rains to the region, but instead only convective showers should occur during the heat of the day. These types of showers are very irregular and they may result in goods rains on one farm and miss another farm completely.

The diminished rainfall over the last few weeks has not yet caused any significant losses for the newly planted corn and the soybean crops in the region, but it has also not recharged the soil moisture either. Light rain fell across Rio Grande do Sul over the weekend, but they were not heavy enough to reverse the overall dryer trend. Forecasters in southern Brazil are now expecting lighter than normal rainfall with uneven distribution through the end of the year, which if verified, would be a worrisome forecast for the region.

Currently, the water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean indicate a neutral position: not an El Nino and not a La Nina. According to the meteorological service Metsul, some of their long term models are indicating that the waters in the Pacific may actually cool enough for the reemergence of a mild La Nina early next year. If that occurred, it could result in deteriorating crop prospects for southern Brazil because neutral conditions or a La Nina generally increases the chances of dryer than normal weather in southern Brazil.

The three southern states in Brazil are responsible for approximately 35% of Brazil total soybean production. In their latest report, Conab estimated that Parana will produce 18.5% of Brazil'SinSs 2012/13 soybean crop, Rio Grande do Sul will produce 14.7%, and Santa Catarina will produce 1.9%.