South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Monday 11/05/12

Rain Douses Brazil's Center West, Settling Soy Farmer Nerves

Farmers across Brazil's Center-West soy belt breathed a collective sigh of relief over the weekend as blanket rains doused previously dry fields from Rio Verde to Sinop.

"We were getting worried about the lack of rain, some were counting the days before they had to replant. But it looks like proper summer rains have finally arrived and planting should go quickly from now on," said Ilario Sachertt, who has planted 70% of his 5,000 acres in Jatai, southeastern Goias.

A cold front that broke from the south has brought up to 3 inches of rain in key soybean regions in Mato Grosso and Goias since Thursday, according to Somar Meteorologia, a local weather service.

And with more blanket rain forecast for the next two weeks, the top-producing Center West may have finally put the showery, inconsistent weather of October behind it.

Blustery showers across the Center-West in the first part of last week had already given farmers confidence to advance Brazilian soybean planting by 14 percentage points to 42% in the week to Nov. 1, according to Safras e Mercado, a local grains consultancy.

That is still well behind the 54% planted at the same point last year, but the arrival of the tropical deluges will likely spur farmers to accelerate field work once the soil dries a little.

Farmers in Mato Grosso, the No. 1 soy state, had planted 62% of its soybean area up to last Thursday, down from 75% at the same point last year, while Goias, the No. 4 soy state, had planted 29%, well back from 60% at the same point last year.

The advance of the cold front over central Brazil is expected to open the passage for a string of further fronts in November, according to Celso Oliveira, meteorologist at Somar.

"The charts indicate the return of the heavy persistent rains that are typical of summer in central Brazil," he said.

Parts of western Mato Grosso remain dry, but that problem will likely be soon resolved as rain is forecast for every day this week in Mato Grosso and Goias.

As a result, planting will likely be all-but-completed in the region in two weeks.

Meanwhile in the south, a turn in the weather will also aid field work.

The problem in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul has been excessive rain -- October precipitation was double the monthly average -- but forecasts indicate sunny days for the next two weeks.

That should dry out waterlogged fields and allow planting, still in its infancy there, to move forward at a fair clip in November.

But while the break in the clouds is a blessing short term, long term it may be a curse with charts indicating consistent precipitation may not return, said Somar's Oliveira.

"It is common for it to stop raining as much in the south (of Brazil) when it starts raining heavily in the north and this may happen this year," said the meteorologist.

El Nino was expected to promote above-average rains across the southern soy belt throughout the Brazilian summer. But with the weather phenomenon's impact now seen neutral, the perennial concerns about dryness have returned.

Brazil is expected to produce a bumper soybean crop with the median of analyst estimates at 81 million metric tons, larger than the U.S. crop in 2012.

Posted at 10:51AM CST 11/05/12 by Alastair Stewart
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