Brazil's soybean exports may prove even larger than expected in 2013-14, increasing the country's lead over the US, thanks to the prospects of a weaker corn harvest freeing up much-coveted logistical capacity.
The US Department of Agriculture's Brasilia bureau pegged at a record 45.0m tonnes its forecast for the South American country's soybean exports in 2013-14.
The forecast - an increase of 2.5m tonnes year on year, according to the bureau - is 2.0m tonnes higher than the official US Department of Agriculture estimate, and the forecast from the International Grains Council.
And it would cement Brazil's place as the top soybean exporter, a title it gained in 2012-13, although the USDA's forecast for US soybean shipments of 37.3m tonnes this season may be liable to an upgrade, given signs of decent export demand and strong reports from the US harvest.
The bureau concurred with the official USDA number, of a record 88.0m tonnes, for the 2013-14 Brazilian harvest, with the increase of some 8% year on year attributed to use of more advanced seed as well as a rise of 1.4m hectares in plantings.
Brazilian farmers will increase by 5 points to 92-93% the proportion of seed from genetically modified varieties, following some further approvals in June by China, the top importer of the oilseed.
"Producers are planting new soybean varieties that should significantly increase yields," the bureau said.
'The greatest challenge'
However, the bureau was more generous on export prospects than Washington thanks to ideas of a drop in corn production, which will free up more of Brazil's creaking export infrastructure for soybeans.
"The greatest challenge for 2013-14 soybean exports will be the export infrastructure system, not grain quality, global demand, or Brazilian domestic supply," the bureau said.
"With export infrastructure pressure lessened by a reduced overall corn crop, ports and trucks will be able to lengthen the soybean export season and move more soybeans and derivatives into the international market."
The Vila do Conde port in Belém, which is forecast to export 3m tonnes, will also boost export potential.
Soybeans after soybeans
The onset of rains in Brazil, while hampering the sugar cane harvest, as highlighted by Unica this week, have boosted farmers' willingness to press on with soybean sowings after a slow start, when dryness spurred crop concerns,
Brazilian farmers had, as of Friday, planted 19% of soybeans, compared with 20% a year before, according to AgRural.
The preference by producers for soybeans rather than corn, as illustrated on Tuesday by farming giant SLC Agricola, has reached such proportions that many growers are now considering second-crop soybeans – ie two crops of the oilseed on the same land in the same year.
Typically, farmers in states such as Mato Grosso and Parana plant corn on land vacated by the soybean harvest, which occurs early in the calendar year.
"This growing season, farmers are contemplating planting a second crop of soybeans because of the extremely low prices being offered for corn," Michael Cordonnier, the respected crop scout, said, although warning of concerns that this could encourage the spread of rust and earworm.
Brazilian authorities operate a no-soybean period from the harvest until mid-September, in an effort to stem the risk of the spread of disease and crop failures.