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November 27, 2015

Wet Weather in Southern Brazil Slows the Sugarcane Harvest

Meteorologist in Brazil predicted heavy rainfall in southern Brazil due to the very strong El Nino and they have been proven correct. Southern Brazil has recorded record rainfall over the last several months with more in the forecast. The state of Sao Paulo is the largest sugarcane producing state in Brazil and it has rained nearly every day in the state since late October, which has resulted in a slowdown in the sugarcane harvest.

The Union of Sugarcane Industries (Unica) reported that during the first half of November there were 25.6 million tons of sugarcane processed in Brazil, which is down 33% compared to the second half of October. The wet weather has also resulted in less Total Recoverable Sugars in the sugarcane which favors the production of ethanol compared to sugar. During the first half of November, 61.8% of the sugarcane was processed into ethanol compared to 57.8% during the second half of October.

The total sugarcane harvested thus far this harvest season is 544.5 million tons or 1% more than last year at this time. The sugar production thus far this year is 28.7 million tons or down 6.4% compared to last year, while ethanol production is up 2.1% this year to 24.9 billion liters.

Usually by the end of November or early December, mills in Brazil start to close down due to a lack of sugarcane, but the greater amount of available sugarcane this year has allowed more mills to operate longer than last year. As of November 15th, Unica is reporting that 26 sugar/ethanol mills have closed down for the season compared to 78 mills in 2014. Sugarcane generally cannot be harvested during the peak of the summer rainy season because wet conditions do not allow for the mechanical harvesting. The harvest then resumes in March or April with the return of dryer conditions.