The US reclaimed the title of the world's biggest soybean
producer, downgrading Brazil's harvest thanks to "hot and dry conditions" which
had hurt output in Paraguay too.
The US Department of Agriculture lowered by 1.5m tonnes to
88.5m tonnes its forecast for Brazil's soybean harvest, highlighting the impact
of temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius for 17 days in some regions.
"About 40% of Brazil's soybean production was subject to
extremely hot and dry conditions," the USDA said, if adding that "rains arrived
by mid-February, providing much-needed relief".
The downgrade, while still putting Brazil on course for a
record soybean crop, meant it was no longer on track to overtake the US, which reaped
89.5m tonnes in its latest harvest.
Brazil is still expected to retain the title of top soybean
exporter, gained last season, with the estimate for 2013-14 volumes kept at
'Yield prospects down
The USDA said that soybean yield potential had been reduced
for crops in the Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Sao
Paulo, and Minas Gerais - but particular in Paraná, which initial studies show
has lost some 1m tonnes in soybean output.
"Parana soybeans were at late reproductive crop stages
during the hot and dry period and were the most affected, with yield prospects
down significantly," the USDA said.
Conversely, in Mato Grosso, "the harvest for the
longer-cycle soybeans was interrupted by heavy rains in late February, causing
some quality damage, and contrasting with record results from the short-cycle
Brazilian farmers tend to plant a mixture of short and later
cycle crops, an effect further extended through different sowing times, to stagger
the harvest in what can be a wet time of year.
Early harvested crops
too offer a greater potential for enabling a follow-on safrinha crop, typically
corn, but which can also be cotton or wheat, or even more soybeans.
The dry weather in Brazil, which has also dented hopes for
coffee and sugar production, extended into Paraguay, where some crops suffered "extreme
heat during the peak of growth and pod set", the USDA said.
Indeed, the weather had later-planted crops hardest, which
were in this phase when dryness struck, a dynamic reflected in decreasing yields
as harvest progress.
"Early planting was beneficial and allowed a portion of the
crop to flower before three scorching weeks in December.
"Sporadic rains during December and January further hurt