Brazil’s record wheat harvest, which has stoked ideas of the country becoming self-sufficient in the grain, may not be quite as huge as had been expected thanks to frost damage in the top growing state.

Brazil’s key south eastern wheat-growing region last week suffered a frost which hit some crops in some areas, such as the west of top growing state Rio Grande do Sul, in the vulnerable flowering and early grain-filling period.

“Wheat is very sensitive to frost at that stage of development and damage assessments are ongoing,” said Dr Michael Cordonnier, the respected South America crop analyst.

A few days earlier, the crop in Parana, the second-ranked producing state, suffered a freeze too.

Dr Cordonnier added that the conditions had also “impacted some of the early planted 2022-23 corn” in Rio Grande do Sul, slowing germination and resulting “in lower vigour” for the crops.

“Farmers will now wait for warmer temperatures to continue planting their corn.”

‘Another strong cold front’

More cold conditions are expected in the South East, although forecasts differ as to whether they will bring frost and further crop concerns.

“The Brazilian national weather service, Inmet, is forecasting another strong cold front to move into southern Brazil over the next week bringing with it another chance of a moderate to strong frost,” Dr Cordonnier said.

However, other commentators were more reassuring to growers, with Climatempo saying that, while weather has turned cold, “there are no favourable conditions for frost” in the South East.

Somar said that, up to midweek, there would be “no favourable conditions for the formation of frosts”.

Self sufficiency drive

The cold snap presents a rare threat to Brazil’s wheat production hopes for 2022-23, when the harvest is forecast to reach a record 9.16m tonnes according to Conab, the official crop bureau, with group Abitrigo pegging the crop at 10m tonnes.

Wheat is one of the few major crops in which Brazil is not self-sufficient, with even a harvest at that level falling short of demand estimated by Conab at 12.28m tonnes.

Brazil typically makes up the shortfall with imports from neighbouring Argentina, made under favourable terms afforded members of the Mercosur trade bloc, although it does sometimes go as far as North America, and even Germany, for hard wheat.

The government aims to make Brazil self-sufficient in wheat within 10 years, with Abitrigo believing that target could be met within five years b expanding wheat production northwards.

Vlamir Brandalizze, at Brandalizze Consulting, said last week that Brazil could be self-sufficient within three years, viewing area expansion as being encouraged as dryness curtails output in the likes of China and Europe, and with conflict and political concerns clouding the outlook for shipments from Russia and Ukraine.