Summer production of corn in Center-South has historic cut

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     Porto Alegre, December 1, 2020 – The South American 20/21 corn crop had worrying weather forecasts for this spring/summer in the face of expectations with La Nina. Rarely did a spring drought hit much of the center-south region of Brazil, with delayed or erratic rainfall. According to the planting profile of each region, the effects were severe or not yet reflected in potential production. As most regions of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina have an earlier corn planting, in August and September, the effects of this weather picture have been severe and irreversible in these two states and part of southwestern Paraná. The other regions of the country will enter the attention stage from now on, when crops will reach pollination and silking stages. The aggravating issue is that the rain is now starting to arrive late in the south of Brazil, which may still help the later crops but, strangely, there is a cut of rain forecast for December in other regions. Even with La Nina more than confirmed in the Pacific, its climatic characteristics also begin to bring distortions from the classic version. Crop losses in the South region bring a new supply setup for the first half of next year.

     Brazil’s 2020/21 corn crop begins with significant and rare production losses. Spring losses are not common in South American crops. In general, the spring enables the planting and development, and the drier summer climate brings production problems. In 2020, the climate cycle, perhaps due to the transition from the neutral phenomenon to La Nina, brought a strong delay in the spring rain and aggravated the drought that started in the regional winter. This delay in the spring rain generated problems in a different way in all regions of Brazil, only delay and replanting in some locations, and irreversible losses in others. The only region that has been fully benefited so far is Matopiba, where the rain arrived earlier and in good volume, allowing a sooner-than-normal planting.

     The South region was fully affected in the context of the summer corn crop. The planting in these locations begins in Missões, in Rio Grande do Sul, and extends to the west of Santa Catarina and southwest of Paraná in August/September. The other locations continue to plant in September/October. These locations with earlier planting entered October with a good percentage in pollination and silking, and the others in November. The critical phase of crops was hard hit by a severe drought and two frosts in Rio Grande do Sul.

     Now, taking into account the spotty rain that has fallen, the look of plantations even seems satisfactory. However, corn has been with ears without kernels, failed to pollinate, and the losses are total in a large part of the midwestern section of the two most affected states, besides the southwest of Paraná. Growers are reporting the impossibility of fulfilling the summer contracts with delivery in January/February and trying to sell silage, but the crop conditions are bad even for silage. In some locations in the east of these states, there may still be some production despite the losses.

     In this way, production cuts are inevitable because even in regions such as Passo Fundo, Não Me Toque, Carazinho, Vacaria, and Campos Novos the picture is of losses of 40 to 50% of crops. In case of lack of rain, the losses could be accentuated. The absence of water soil reserves is the central point, as it requires continuous rain, which has not happened. For the last 30 days, rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul has reached only 50 mm in the northeastern half of the state and 30 mm in the midwestern. In Santa Catarina, good rain in the east, but only 50 mm in the west. In Paraná, the same picture for the South/east of the state and 50 mm for the west and North.

     At this point, in Paraná, part of the crops with the highest corn production are in this center-south, and therefore the corn losses in the state are still not so severe. However, December and January are critical months for crops, and attention continues. Between Guarapuava and Cascavel, there are losses in potential productivity, and the local data must be revised.

     In general, the summer crop in Rio Grande do Sul now has losses of almost 48%, Santa Catarina nearly 20%, and Paraná 14%. Naturally, new assessments will be made by the end of the crop to define the size of this year’s production, and new cuts would not be a surprise.

     The other point is the Southeast, a region with a significant volume of production in the summer crop. The crop is delayed across the state of São Paulo. Some locations in Mogiana will have soybean planting only from this week. In the south and Sorocabana, this year’s little summer corn was also planted with a strong delay. It is a crop with a smaller area and that must enter the pollination and silking stages in December and January. It is a later crop, with a harvest cycle in February/March/April, possibly overlapping with the soybean harvest and logistics. The major concern is that a drier December is forecast for São Paulo and Minas Gerais, some models also show January, which would not be much in line with La Nina but, but is what the models are projecting today. Like in Rio Grande do Sul, dry weather in December and January could bring losses to the summer crops in São Paulo and Minas Gerais. There is some rain forecast for São Paulo this week.

     Minas Gerais showed good rain in November, the planting progressed and, for now, it is normal, albeit a little later. The question is really the development of crops from now on, since the planting was carried out in much of the state. The planted area must have a smaller-than-expected cut, reflecting the excellent price of this second semester.

     In the Midwest region, the main point of attention is Goiás, since the other states of the bloc have very modest summer corn areas. Goiás recorded an excellent rainfall regime in November, in the largest portion of the state, making it possible to advance the planting of soybeans and, also, the little existing summer corn. Only in the southwest of the state the rain regime made the planting feasible, but it has not yet left moisture reserves, and the rain should continue. The same occurs throughout Mato Grosso do Sul and western Mato Grosso.

     In Matopiba, the rain arrived earlier than normal, the planting also started earlier in Maranhão, Piauí and Bahia, which may enable an earlier than normal harvest of the summer crop and a better window for the local second season. The biggest concern for this strip from São Paulo to Matopiba is over climate models, which begin to point to below normal rain in December and January, a situation that, once confirmed, would be troublesome for the summer production.

     Thus, we reach the summer crop with the lowest production at least for the last 40 years. The 19-million-ton crop is unprecedented for the past forty seasons. This picture puts the 2021 crop under pressure for a large production, as well as reveals the immense problem present for the first semester of 2021 or until the harvest of the second corn crop. The Brazilian crop is now being revised to 112.9 million tons, still a record, but below the levels originally forecast above 116 million tons. We will still have several adjustments in this context of the national corn crop until its closure, with the summer scenario already advancing to a surprising loss of production in the spring.

     The rain also arrived in Argentina last week and with a good forecast for this early December. The planting, which is nearly 40% complete, may progress regularly in the coming few days in Cordoba, Santa Fe, and Buenos Aires. Of course, the climate picture in Argentina will remain in focus until March due to La Nina.

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