March Rains Sound Alarm of Crop Loss in Brazil Soybean Belt

Soybean farmers in Brazil’s major growing regions are starting to worry about losing their crops as torrential rains threaten harvests of the world’s largest producer.

Silvesio de Oliveira is one such grower. He lives in Tapurah in the heart of Brazil’s soybean belt in top-producing Mato Grosso state -- where the situation is the most severe. Oliveira has harvested 85% of the 1,350 hectares (3,336 acres) planted despite the deluge, but for the past week he has been unable to enter his soaked fields to finish the job. He already lost 100 hectares.

“Heavy rain and wind dropped the plant to the ground,” Oliveira said in an interview. “Since I couldn’t harvest it, the beans rotted.”

March Rains Sound Alarm of Crop Loss in Brazil Soybean Belt

About half the soybean crops in Mato Grosso are close to maturity or ready for harvest, but downpours are keeping farmers from taking the beans out of the fields. The state accounts for a quarter of the South American nation’s soybean output.

“We already have many regions reporting quality losses,” Fernando Cadore, head of farming group Aprosoja in Mato Grosso, said in an interview. “There are a lot of soybeans ready, but they haven’t been harvested for 10 days amid rains.”

Brazil’s annual soybean output is forecast to be between 130 million and 131 million metric tons, down from an earlier estimate of 134 million, since farmers can’t access fields to pick beans, weather forecaster Rural Clima said Friday in a report. The weather has also affected Goias, Tocantins, Para and Maranhao states, with cloudy conditions reducing bean weight, meteorologist Marco Antonio dos Santos said in the report.

“Production can be cut further if rains continue, which is what is predicted,” he said.

Potential losses in Brazil could add fuel to surging soybean prices that have already been bolstered recently by weather concerns in South America. Soybean futures in Chicago have climbed 55% in the past year. Only a quarter of Brazil’s crop had been collected as of the end of February, the lowest level in a decade, according to consulting firm AgRural. The excessive rainfall may also worsen the delay of Brazil’s soybean shipments, which may shift some demand to the U.S., the world’s second-largest producer.

Crop Losses

Even with many weather woes -- from dry weather delaying seeding and hurting development of early varieties to the excess rain that subsequently prolonged the crop-development cycle -- Brazil has had isolated crop losses. That has kept market forecasters still calling for record soybean production for the country’s crop season.

Frequent rains are still predicted for the oil-seed fields in March, amplifying weather risks. Half of Mato Grosso’s soy-growing area will be ready for reaping this month and the continual downpours may prevent beans from being gathered in time to avoid damage, according to Daniele Siqueira, an analyst at AgRural. That could mean a smaller crop.

“So far it is impossible to measure,” she said in an interview, adding the risk is also seen on a smaller scale in other states.

March Rains Sound Alarm of Crop Loss in Brazil Soybean Belt

Heavy rainfall will return to Mato Grosso after a partial easing on Friday and Saturday, according to Somar Meteorologia. The pattern may persist in the second 10-day period of March.

“The forecast is quite wet in Mato Grosso through this weekend, but it does ease up a bit next week through the end of the month,” said Don Keeney, senior agricultural meteorologist at Maxar. Those improvements will allow producers to ramp up harvesting a bit, he said.

“Not a complete wide-open opportunity, but conditions should definitely improve a bit.”

Better weather is just what Oliveira needs, with the farmer’s last 100 hectares of soybeans ready to be gathered from his soggy fields.

“I will lose it too if don’t harvest it in four or five days,” he said.

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