Will the safrinha corn crop in Brazil’s top growing state, Mato Grosso, beat expectations?

State research institute Imea last week cut its forecast for the Mato Grosso safrinha corn harvest – which provides Brazil with about one-third of its output of the grain – by 4.5 sacks per hectare citing dryness damage.

At 103.8 sacks per hectare (6.2 tonnes per hectare), the yield will now come in bang in line with the average of the previous five years, as calculated by GrainPriceNews.

Time factor

But the timely beginning of the harvest, which Imea overnight said was historically early to get off the blocks, suggests that Imea may have been a little too eager to reach for its scalpel.

The earlier harvesters are able to get into the field, the better the yield result is in Mato Grosso – at least to judge by the results of the last five years.

The quickest-starting year in that period was 2018-19, for which the harvest was only four days behind this season’s on GrainPriceNews analysis. And it saw the biggest yield, of 110.9 sacks per hectare, ie 6.8% above the average of the period.

By contrast, the most tardy harvest – last year’s, which kicked off 20 days behind this season’s – recorded the smallest yield, of 92.7 sacks per hectare, 4.1% below average.

The 2017-18 harvest, which lagged by 15 days, was also a below-par one too in yield terms, producing just shy of 100 sacks per hectare.

But the 2016-17 and 2019-20 ones, which were only a week off the pace, both recorded above-par results.

Testing time

Nor should it be a surprise that timely harvests tend to show the best results.

An early start is usually the result of early sowings, as indeed happened this year.

And getting safrinha corn in the ground as soon in the calendar year as possible is a big tailwind to success, making it less vulnerable to the seasonal dryness that often kicks in as the southern hemisphere winter approaches.

More than 80% of Mato Grosso safrinha corn was in the ground this year by February 25, when the ideal sowings window closes on Imea estimates.

Last year, the figure was 52% – a tardiness which cost the crop dear when the seasonal dry spell, enhanced by La Nina, proved particularly severe.

Cold start

In 2022, the La Nina appears to be causing fewer problems for Mato Grosso corn in terms of dryness, but more as regards the thermometer, with conditions cooler than normal.

Some investors are concerned that still-colder conditions await the state moves into the southern hemisphere winter.

But even if frost does call time on the growing season, at least a crop which was early seeded will have got significant yield in the bank already.


Mato Grosso corn yield results, compared with harvest state date
Season Start date compared with 2020-21 Final yield % difference from average of 5 years
2020-21 -20 days 92.65 -10.8%
2019-20 -7 days 109.02 +5.0%
2018-19 -4 days 110.91 +6.8%
2017-18 -15 days 99.55 -4.1%
2016-17 -7 days 107.1 +3.1%
Yield in bags per hectare. Sources: Imea, GrainPriceNews