September 13, 2013

Soy Producers in Brazil Lose up to 10% of Production Post-Harvest

Brazilian soybean farmers in Mato Grosso loose an estimated 4% of their soybean production between the time the crop is ready for harvest and when it reaches its final destination. That is the conclusion reached by commodity groups and university researchers through a series of recent studies.

According to research conducted by the Mato Grosso Soybean and Corn Producers Association (Aprosoja) in two regions of the state, Rondonopolis in southern Mato Grosso and Sinop in northern Mato Grosso, 1% of the crop is lost before harvesting begins and 2% of the crop is lost during the actual harvesting process. Combined, this represents a loss of approximately 1.5 sacks per hectare or 1.3 bushels per acre.

The pre-harvest loses are generally the result of excessive rains that delay harvesting even though the crop is mature. Many of the early maturing soybeans are harvested during the peak of the rainy season and excessive moisture at harvest can result in moldy soybeans, seeds sprouted in the pods, or pod shatter due to repeated wetting and drying of the pods before they are harvested. During the actual harvesting process, the loses are the result of poor combine calibration, excessive speed, seed characterizes, and operational capacity.

Since many farmers in the state do not own their own combines, they must rely on custom combining crews to harvest their crops. These custom crews are often under pressure to harvest quickly and move on to their next waiting customer and this can result in excessive losses due to operating the combines at speeds that are faster than optimum.

Losses continue to occur during the transportation of the crop to either the local grain elevator or the distant ports in southern Brazil. Many of the trucks used to transport the grain are not designed for grain hauling and soybeans can be seen dribbling out the back of the truck as it bounces down poorly maintained highways. Loses during transportation are estimated at 0.5%.

For producers the losses can be significantly higher due to the lower classification of their grain at the time it is delivered to the local grain elevator or grain company. Many farmers are discounted as much as 6% in price due to what the grain companies classify as poorer seed quality. This discounting is more common for early maturing soybeans where the harvest may have been delayed due to excessive rains. Producers have complained for a long time the classification system is arbitrary and the entire classification system needs to be reviewed.

The combination of physical loses of grain during harvesting and transportation and economic losses at the time the grain is sold can result in a total loss of as much as 10% for some Brazilian soybean farmers. These type of loses were the focus of the recent Mato Grosso Post-Harvest Grain Symposium held in the city of Sinop in northern Mato Grosso.