02-09-2011 04:12 AM - edited 02-09-2011 04:47 PM
So far, the Brazilian trip has been very educational, regarding their farm economy, agronomic practices, and marketing decisions. Let's bring you up to speed as to what I'm finding out.
Last things first, since some new news is fresh in my mind. It's Wednesday, and it has been raining like 'cats and dogs' down here. I'm referring to heavy rain in the state of Parana. However, I talked to a farmer north of here, in Goias, and he says it's a dry week there.
But, here's the new development I discovered today. A harvest train wreck may be heading this way. Parana, the No. 2 soybean-producing state, has a crop that is maturing late, due to late planting and cold weather that followed. Add to that, the heavy rains are delaying the harvest for the early soybean varieties that are harvest-ready.
At the EMBRAPA headquarters where we visited today, I found that total rainfall for Dec., Jan. and six days of Feb. amounts to 17 inches of rain. But, I swear, today alone, we saw another 2 inches maybe more fall. That 17 inches is below a 20-inch average for those same months. But, it's early in February and it just keeps raining here. In fact, the local farmers say it's not the amount of rain, but the constant rain events that is bothersome.
Let's breakdown the harvest delays: For Mato Grosso, the No. 1 soy producing state, as of the end of January has only 2.8% of soybeans harvested vs. 9.9% last year. For Parana, 1% of the soy is harvested vs. 17% by the end of February last year. And these Parana farmers will not be getting in the field anytime soon, let me tell you. For corn, Parana farmers had 2% of the corn harvested last year, at this time. They harvested 23%, last year, by the end of February. So, a delay is underway.
Some farmers are not worried yet. Some are real worried about everybody trying to bring this crop to market at the same time. Traffic to ports will be miles long, if they can find enough trucks at all. Some farmers that rent combines will be competing with their neighbors for that same piece of equipment. If the ports get flooded with traffic they could just shutdown and export contract agreements may not be met.
Keep in mind, this isn't me talking, it's what the Brazilian ag sector folks are telling us.
Anyway, enough on that. Marketwise, these farmers are sold way ahead of previous years. I've talked to farmers that are 30% sold out on new crop, and others that are 42% and 30% sold. The president of the largest farmer cooperative in Latin America says his 22,600 farmers are 30% sold on new crop, whereas they normally are only 15% sold at this point.
In earlier reports, I mentioned how the general attitude of Brazilian farmers is positive.
Agronomically, Brazil's farmers are being educated on how to improve their insect management plans. Weed resistance is a popular topic. Tank mixing is really being discouraged. Instead of spraying according to the calendar, experts are telling these farmers to spray according to thresholds.
By the way, did you know that Brazilian farmers are up-to-their ears in wheat? Some farmers are sitting on two years worth of wheat. The price they are offered for it on the export market is worthless, they say. What I'm gathering, the wheat is poorer quality than the world buyers are looking for.
Social programs for farmers are going over like gang busters. These farmers are really learning how to belly up to the government trough. Smaller farmers are able to upgrade equipment, improve technology skills, etc.
You're reading this reporter's notebook, so to speak. I'll have further details on many of these topics.
It rained heavily yesterday, in the state of Parana. Harvest activity will definitely be delayed here for the next few days. I am learning that for southern Brazil, smaller engine tractor sales are the hottest. The government has a social program that is helping these smaller farmers upgrade.
What questions do any of you have that I can ask these farmers or the officials here?
02-09-2011 08:22 AM
Mike I have not been keeping up so if you have answered this already I apologize.
I have heard that in the northern states it can cost up to 3 dollars a bushel to ship beans to the southern shipping ports. And that is if half of the beans don't fall out of the truck on the way. I know they are having issues with railroads. Why would the farmers themselves not buy more rail cars or even build their own tracks and loading points. 100000 acre farms with 30 bu. yields at $2 a bu. is by my count serious money. In the US we would not wait for Government or big business to get it running we would just start our own rail system.
Mike maybe my info is incorrect or something. Can you explain it please. Thanks
02-09-2011 11:06 AM
Mike: There's a story on the wire today (click here) which says that Brazil can put another 50 milllion acres of land into crops over the next decade. This capability is being seen as a way to alleviate tight global supplies of grains and oilseeds.
This was according to an outfit called Agroconsult, a Brazilian consultant. You get any sense there that farmers are looking to expand production that much?
02-09-2011 11:15 AM - edited 02-09-2011 11:20 AM
Are Brazilian farmers wired into the internet and if so,do they use it for real time news? I see your presentation that says 7% have computers. How about smartphones? Ipads?
How much foreign investment is there in Brazilian agriculture, and which countries are biggest?
What is your sense of how much Brazilian farmers track U.S. and China (and other) agriculture news?
02-09-2011 04:50 PM
Let me check on your specific questions. But, it's interesting to note that Brazilian drivers are finding that ethanol does not take them as far as gasoline. Sure, ethanol is cheaper to buy, but when you do the math, which I'm told more and more of them are doing, ethanol doesn't pay to use. So, I'm not sure how this will play out with the alternative fuels image, but I'm hearing a bad rap.
02-09-2011 04:54 PM
This is an interesting statistic. I haven't heard that figure being thrown around. However, I have a on-one-on interview with Brazil's Minister of Agriculture, towards the end of my trip. I will add that to my list of questions. From a personal view, the government's social program seems to be helping invigorate the smaller farmer to grow. The big farmers are getting bigger in Mato Grosso. And, we are hearing it's the mid-size Brazilian farmer that could use a little more government help regarding a financing plan for equipment and growth measures.
02-09-2011 05:03 PM
Great question and one I've been asking to nearly every farmer here. I will write a complete story on this technology theme. But, let me give you a snapshot of what I'm finding. One market consultant is working with a telephone company to get 900 farmer-customers on a cell phone plan to receive his market news messages. For the most part, these Brazil farmers are not getting delayed quotes on their phones, but other information from their cooperatives. The young farmers are pushing their fathers to get internet, cell phones and the like, yes. The equipment technology bug is biting most of these guys. At the farm show in Parana state, there were throngs of farmers in attendance and crowding around the new tractors, planters and combines that had all the 'bells and whistles'. So, are all of them buying cell phones and RTK, no. But, it's certainly available to most, and a lot more farmers are taking note.
02-09-2011 05:05 PM
take the initiative to build their own railroad...whatever.
They never have before without govt or big business on things like that.
E industry...might be another lapse in that too....IF you think about it.