South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Thursday 08/15/13

Brazil's Parana Frost Damage Greater Than First Thought

Two freezing nights in late July hit wheat and corn crops in southern Brazil much harder than initially thought, local authorities said late Wednesday.

Parana, Brazil's No. 1 corn and wheat state, suffered losses totaling 2 million metric tons (mmt) due to frosts on July 23 and 24, said the state agricultural secretariat.

The state lowered its wheat crop forecast by 34% to 1.76 mmt (64.7 million bushels) based on the damage to its crop, half of which was in the sensitive boot, heading and flowering stages of development at the time.

The estimated loss of 900,000 metric tons (mt) is much larger than the 300,000 mt estimated by wheat millers in the immediate aftermath of the freeze.

Losses were most pronounced in the west and northwest of the state, which typically turns out over half of Brazil's wheat.

The Agriculture Ministry pegs Brazil's wheat crop at 5.6 mmt (205.8 mb) this season, but this figure doesn't take into account the degree of frost damage claimed by Parana state.

Brazil typically imports more than 50% of its wheat, relying primarily on Argentina and Uruguay, its Mercosur trade bloc partners. But tight supplies in Argentina mean Brazil is importing heavily from North America this year.

The cold snaps also reduced second-crop corn production by 8% to 10.6 mmt (417.3 mb), the state said.

Brazil is on course to produce a record second-corn crop of 45 mmt (1.77 billion bushels) or more this season.

The arrival of a new polar air mass over southern Brazil had put farmers on frost alert once again this week.

But while thermometers have dipped below freezing in many high-lying parts of Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, temperatures have not dropped low enough in the corn and wheat fields to cause concern.

"Thursday morning was the coldest but not cold enough in grain-producing regions to cause frost," said Marco Antonio dos Santos, meteorologist at Somar, a local weather service.

With the polar air mass moving out to sea, temperatures are expected to rise Friday morning.

Posted at 1:01PM CDT 08/15/13 by Alastair Stewart
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