Rains wash gloss off Brazil's soybean harvest

Two leading analysts called time on the wave of upgrades for Brazil's soybean crop, following the rains which have seen a state of emergency declared in some areas, with localised crop losses of up to 60%.

Oil World, the Frankfurt-based analysis group, cut its estimate for the harvest in the world's second-ranked soybean producing country by 1m tonnes to 70m-71m tonnes, citing rains which had hit the crop at a vulnerable time.

The downgraded figure still left the crop on course to meet a US Department of Agricultural estimate lifted by 1.5m tonnes to 70m tonnes last week, and an official Brazilian forecast lifted this month to 70.3m tonnes.

However, even these figures appear "too high," Michael Cordonnier, at Corn and Soybean Advisor, warned, given the extent of the rains, which on Monday halted deliveries to the port of Paranagua.

The estimate from Brazil's Conab crop bureau "did not take into account the recent damage to the soybeans caused by the heavy rains in central Brazil", Dr Cordonnier said, cutting his forecast by 1m tonnes to 69.5m tonnes.

"The Brazilian soybean estimate has been steadily increasing in recent weeks, but losses in yield and quality caused by the persistent wet weather now appear to be taking a toll."

Record in doubt? 

Both Oil World and Dr Cordonnier warned that further downgrades may be in the offing if rainfall persists, raising a question mark over whether the harvest will, after all, beat 2010's record of 68.5m tonnes.

Indeed, Brazil's soybean experience echoes that of Australia, which saw a bumper grains harvest marred by heavy harvest rains which caused some losses in yield but, in particular, in quality.

The world's weather extremes, from Russian drought to deep snows in the northern US, have been attributed to the La Nina weather pattern, which meteorologists believe may dissipate in the second quarter of this year.

'Mouldy and shrivelled'

In Brazil, conditions have been particularly poor in Mato Gross do Sul, where officials already estimate that some 1.5m tonnes of soybeans have been lost.

"In municipalities such as Sao Gabriel do Oeste, they estimate losses at 60% with other municipalities estimating 50% losses," Dr Cordonnier said, adding that a state of emergency had been declared in 15 municipalities.

"In early March there were 10 straight days and nights of rain resulting in soybean seeds sprouting in the pods, and when the soybeans sprout in the pods, the loss is 100%. 

"Even if there is no sprouting, the seeds can become mouldy and shrivelled."

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