April 30, 2018

Farmers in NE Brazil are very pleased with this Year's Production

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Over the past few decades, northeastern Brazil has emerged as the new agricultural frontier in Brazil. The agricultural area of northeastern Brazil consists of the states of Maranhao, Tocantins, Piaui, and Bahia. Collectively, this area is often referred to Matopiba, which is a word that consists of the first two letters of each of the four states.

Farmers in the region are wrapping up the harvest of their 2017/18 soybean crop and they are very pleased. For the second year in a row, it appears that the region will set another record soybean yield. Conab is estimating that Matopiba will produce approximately 11% of Brazil's 115.0 million ton 2017/18 soybean crop.

A survey conducted by Embrapa indicated that the region consists of 337 municipalities and represents a total area of 73 million hectares (180 million acres). The region contains 324,000 farm units, 46 conservation areas, 35 indigenous areas, and 781 agrarian reform units.

Brazilian farmers from other regions of the country have been moving to northeastern Brazil due to its advantages including: relatively cheap land prices compared to the other agricultural areas of Brazil, a flat topography and cerrado vegetation that is easily converted to row crop agriculture, deep soils, high amount of sunlight, a well-defined rainy season, and relative proximity to Brazilian ports. All of which is good for soybean production.

Soybean yields in the region vary in the range of 2,000 to 4,500 kg/ha (29.6 to 66.6 bu/ac) and the average yield of the four state is still below the national average yield last year which was approximately 3,300 kg/ha (48.8 bu/ac).

One of the reasons why soybean yields in the region have not been consistently as high as the rest of Brazil is because the weather can be more fickle in northeastern Brazil. Just east of the main agricultural areas, the climate is semi-arid and is notorious for prolonged periods of drought.

Even in the agricultural areas, there can be a shortage of available water supplies, the temperatures can be very hot and the intense solar radiation can result in high evapotranspiration rates. Potential dry weather during critical reproductive periods is the biggest hurdle for soybean production. Fortunately, the weather during the last two growing season has been very good resulting in record soybean production.

The weather in the region consists of a dry season from April to September and a rainy season from October to March. The rainy season in northeastern Brazil generally starts later and ends earlier than in other parts of Brazil. Additionally, the rains are not as uniform or as heavy as they are in other regions of Brazil.

Once again, farmers in the region realize that they have had two exceptionally good years in row. They are now hoping they can stretch it to three in a row.