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October 27, 2011

Disappointing Wheat Harvest Progresses Southward in Brazil

Farmers in Brazil have generally been disappointed with their 2011 wheat harvest. The harvest is already complete in central Brazil and it is progressing southward into the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is the last state in Brazil to harvest wheat. Wheat is the only major grain for which Brazil is not self-sufficient, but trying to increase wheat production in Brazil continues to be a struggle. Conab is currently estimating that the 2011 wheat crop in Brazil at 5.1 million tons or 12.8% less than in 2010. The domestic demand for wheat in Brazil is estimated at 10.5 million tons.

Some of the northern most wheat production in Brazil is in the state of Minas Gerais where 70% of the wheat is irrigated. The average wheat yield in the state is estimated at 5,400 kg/ha (83 bu/ac), which is down 10% compared to last year, but the quality of the wheat is expected to be quite good this year. Farmers in the state report that an average of three applications of fungicides was required this year to control fungal diseases. The state is a small overall wheat producer with only 102,000 tons of production.

In Goias and the Federal District (Brasilia), there were only 15,000 hectares of wheat grown and nearly all of that was irrigated. The wheat was harvested in August and September and the average yield was estimated at 5,400 kg/ha (83 bu/ac), which was down 10% compared to a year earlier, but some yields were reported as high as 6,900 kg/ha (106 bu/ac). Farmers in the region applied an average of two fungicides applications and two insecticide applications.

While the state of Mato Grosso is the largest grain producing state in Brazil, the farmers in the state shy away from wheat production with only 240 hectares of wheat grown in 2011. The average wheat yield in the state was only 3,600 kg/ha in 2011 (55 bu/ac).

The largest wheat producing region in Brazil encompasses the states of Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Sao Paulo, but freezing temperatures in June severely impacted the crop in these three states. In Mato Grosso do Sul for example, there were four episodes of freezing temperatures during the flowering and grain filling periods. In addition to the freezing temperatures, there were heavy rains in northern Parana as the crop was being harvested resulting in lower yields and poorer quality. As a result, average yields in Parana are expected to be only 2,400 kg/ha (37 bu/ac) or 13% lower than what was expected at the start of the growing season. The wheat harvest in Parana is expected to be complete by mid-November with 2.3 million tons of wheat produced in the state.

The one bright spot for Brazilian wheat production is expected to be the state of Rio Grande do Sul where farmers are just now starting to harvest their 2011 wheat crop. The extension service in the state is estimating that the average wheat yield will be 3,000 kg/ha (46 bu/ac), which represents an increase over original estimates. The state is expected to harvest 2 million tons of wheat and the quality is expected to be good.