Brazilian Soybean Farmers Undeterred by Lower Commodity Prices

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By James Thompson

Just a few weeks ahead of soybean planting in Brazil, local consultancy Céleres forecast a 91.35 million-tonne 2014-15 crop (3.36 billion bushels), produced on 3.6 percent more acres than last season. Another consultant group, FC Stone, said the crop would come in at more like 93 million tonnes (3.42 billion bushels), up 6.3 percent from 2013-14. And a third, Lanworth, went so far as to estimate production at 97.97 million tonnes (3.6 billion bushels), up 14 percent. So it seems the lower commodity prices are unlikely to hold the Brazilian farmers back from planting more area to soybeans.

“Soybeans have already gone through their heyday, and producers made a lot of money,” says João Conrado Schmidt, who grows soybeans, corn and buckwheat on his farm in Brazil’s southern state of Paraná. “Now, prices should remain at lower levels, and producers will have to get used to that for some years.”

But Schmidt is unlikely to change his cropping plan this season. His rotation is based on agronomics rather than prices, he says.

Fellow Paraná producer Nelson Paludo, though, says producers in his area might change cropping patterns a bit in response to prices next year. But not in 2014-15.

“This year, in our region, farmers have already bought their inputs,” says Paludo. “And they’re not going to change planting intentions now. Had prices dropped earlier, there may have been a reduction in (soy) planted area.

But Paludo says the dynamic might be different in Brazil’s top soybean state.

“Up in Mato Grosso, and in the new agricultural frontiers, I think (the new) prices will make it unviable to open new land,” he says.

Main-crop-corn prices are slated to drop in Brazil in 2014-15. And a combination of low prices and logistics also make cotton and sugar unattractive as possible alternatives.

Mato Grosso soybean farmer Ademir Rostirolla, whose operation includes soybeans, second-crop corn and eucalyptus trees, says he doesn’t have much choice but to grow soybeans.

“In my opinion, soybean (area) will keep increasing, though maybe more timidly, if only because we don’t have another profitable summer crop,” he says.

James Thompson edits the www.CropSpotters.com site, featuring weekly on-farm reports from Brazilian farmers. He also writes a regular blog about Brazil on www.FarmFutures.com.