South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Thursday 09/27/12

Surprise Cold Snap Hit Brazil's Southern Corn

A surprise spring cold snap caused frosts across parts of Brazil's southern corn belt on Wednesday and Thursday, which will likely force some replanting

Luckily for the worst-hit farms in northern Rio Grande do Sul and southern Parana, the frost was mild while the impact will be limited by delays in summer corn planting.

"It will take up to a week to gauge the full impact of the frost, but I would be surprised if more than 10% of the affected area needed to be replanted," said Paulo Molinari, corn analyst at Safras e Mercado, a local grains consultancy.

The late arrival of September rains means Brazilian farmers have only planted half the corn they would expect to at this stage of the season. Rio Grande do Sul, the worst hit by the frost, had only planted 21% of the crop up to Sep. 21, compared with 42% last year.

The frost will have only affected the corn planted at the end of August or early September, about a third of the total, as seeds that haven't germinated will be immune.

Frosts in September are very rare, although not unheard of, in southern Brazil. This week's came courtesy of a polar air mass moving up from Argentina and caused thermometers to drop as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit in the higher, more exposed growing regions of northern Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's No. 3 corn state.

However, corn is typically only planted in October at these altitudes and the lower-lying regions received a much lighter frost.

"It certainly got very cold and some corn may have been killed, but this frost wasn't a disaster," said Gerson de Lima, director of the Cotrijal cooperative in northern Rio Grande do Sul.

Temperatures also dipped sharply on Thursday morning, but frosts only formed at higher altitudes. It was getting warmer in the region Thursday afternoon and no more frosts are expected.

Rio Grande do Sul is pegged to produce around 5 million metric tons (mmt) of summer corn in 2012-13, out of a center-south crop of around 32 mmt.

(AG)

Posted at 4:17PM CDT 09/27/12 by Alastair Stewart
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