SLC Agricola underlined the clamour by Brazilian farmers to grow soybeans, and cotton, by allocating a 58,000-hectare jump in plantings to the crops – while corn area remains static.
The Brazilian farm operator revealed that its sowings for 2013-14 would rise above 340,000 hectares, an area bigger than Northern Cyprus, although some of the land is double counted, being planted with both first and second crops.
The increase from the 282,000 hectares sown last year reflects largely extra leased land, and 30,000 acres gained through joint ventures with Dois Vales Group and with Japan's Mitsui, whose Agricola Xingu subsidiary has allocated 22,000 hectares of land to the tie-up.
And SLC Agricola is using the extra area to boost sowings of soybeans - which will account for 185,000 hectares, a rise of nearly 35,000 hectares year on year – and cotton, for which plantings will increase by 17,000 hectares to just under 94,000 hectares.
Sowings of corn, including the safrinha crop planted on land vacated by the soybean harvest, will increase by just 1,200 hectares to 50,500 hectares.
The switch illustrates the dynamic in Brazil as a whole, where growers are expected by Conab, the official crop bureau, to plant a record soybean area of some 29m hectares this season, in part at the expense of corn.
Conab expects seedings of Brazilian first crop corn to drop by 3.7-6.8% to 6.4m-6.6m hectares.
The switch reflects price dynamics. In Parana, one of the main corn-growing states, farmers are receiving some R$17 a sack, equivalent to about $3.50 a bushel, for the grain, below production costs pegged by Conab at R20.41 per sack, according to respected scout Michael Cordonnier.
In the top corn-growing state of Mato Grosso, corn prices are even lower.
'Better profit opportunity'
Meanwhile, for soybeans, prices are at some R$74 a sack at the port of Paranagua, according to Cepea, the research centre linked to Sao Paulo University.
While that price will include the hefty costs of transport to port, it does allow some room for profit, with producers' cost estimated by Conab at R$41.53 a sack.
"Brazilian farmers feel that soybeans offer a better profit opportunity compared to corn and as a result, they are switching some of the full-season corn acreage," especially in the south of the country Dr Cordonnier said.
In central Brazil, much extra soybean acreage is coming from ploughing up degraded pasture land.
In cotton, Conab has forecast seedings of 1.04m-1.09m hectares, a rise of 16.8%-22.5%, reflecting firm prices, and the greater availability of seed for varieties resistant to pesticides used to manage Helicoverpa zea, the corn earworm, which has been causing large losses in Brazilian cotton.
SLC will grow 81,000 hectares of first crop cotton, a rise of nearly 20,000 hectares, with second crop cotton area decreasing slightly.
The group achieved a yield last season of 1.63 tonnes per hectare on first crop cotton, compared with 1.54 tonnes per hectare on second crop cotton.