September 11, 2012

Brazil Studies Ways to Limit Grain Loss in Transport

The loss of grain from the time the crop is harvested in Brazil until it is exported out of the country is much greater in Brazil compared to its main competitors such as the United States and Argentina. The problem is that no one has an accurate assessment of the total losses. To achieve that estimate, the University of Illinois in conjunction with Brazilian universities and Embrapa, are conducting a research project to determine where exactly the losses are occurring.

Many in Brazil feel the losses are as high as 4% or more and they would like to reduce that to 1% to 2% if possible. Researchers at the State University of Sao Paulo are more pessimistic and estimate the soybean loses are in the range of 5% and other crops may be as high as 7% to 10%.

The two main factors that will be looked at include loses in the harvesting process and during transportation. To monitor the losses associated with harvesting, combines will be outfitted with special equipment to catch the grain that does not make it into the combine. They will also be looking at improving the efficiency of the combines by making sure they are adjusted properly. The goal is to limit the losses in the field to one sack (60 kilograms) per hectare or approximately one bushel per acre.

The other main source of loss is the transportation of grain to the export facilities in southern Brazil. The University of Mato Grosso estimates that 1% of a typical load of grain (27,000 kilograms) is lost in transport. The main problem is that non-grain trucks may be employed to haul grain. Many of these trucks are used to haul lumber or general merchandise and are ill equipped to transport soybeans. A slow but steady stream of grain can be seen dribbling out the back of the trucks as they travel down the highway. The poor condition of the roads and the numerous potholes also contribute to the losses. Many times along the main highway in Mato Grosso, BR-163, the edge of the asphalt can be covered by a layer of soybeans.

According to studies conducted by the National Association of Grain Exporters (Anec), Brazilian farmers have an average cost of US$ 85 per ton to transport grain to export facilities compared to US$ 23 per ton in the United States and US$ 20 per ton in Argentina.