Brazil’s soybean harvest will set a record by an even bigger margin than had been expected, officials said, citing a boost from rains to the newly-started sowing periods, and edging higher expectations for corn output too.

Conab, the Brazilian crop bureau, in its first detailed forecasts for 2022-23, pegged the country’s soybean output at 152.4m tonnes – a jump of 26.8m tonnes year on year, and by a distance the biggest harvest of the oilseed that the world has ever seen.

The existing record is the 139.4m tonnes produced by Brazil two seasons ago, with US output peaking at last year’s 120.7m tonnes.

Conab’s forecast – which exceeds an estimate of 150.4m tonnes that it outlined in August, and is bigger than expectations from other commentators – reflected in part expectations of a 1.4m-hectare increase in sowings, to a record 42.9m hectares.

The yield estimate was seen setting a record too, of 3.55 tonnes per hectare.

‘Should intensify planting’

The forecasts come as farmers are in the early stages of sowing the crop, in conditions much improved on a year ago, when dryness delayed plantings in many areas.

In the top growing state of Mato Grosso, Conab, noting “favourable climatic conditions”, said that last month’s rainfall had “made it possible to sow punctually” even in areas without irrigation, adding that rains expected this month “should intensify planting”.

However, it was in southern Brazil that the bureau forecast the biggest growth in production, by 8.53m tonnes to 20.8m tonnes in Parana, and by 12.5m tonnes to 21.6m tonnes in Rio Grande do Sul.

Parana, larger-than-expected rainfall last month meant that “the soil has good availability of water and, if these conditions persist, good crop development is expected”.

In Rio Grande do Sul, Conab stressed the appeal of a crop expected to offer growers bigger profits than the likes of rice or faba beans, with land for soy freed up by the ploughing up of pasture too.

Corn outlook

For corn, the bureau pegged Brazil’s 2022-23 output at 126.9m tonnes, also an upgrade from the August figure, by 1.44m tonnes, and a record high.

The production increase of 14.1m tonnes year on year was seen driven by the safrinha crop, which will be planted early in 2023 on land vacated by the soybean harvest, with output estimated up by 10.7m tonnes at 96.3m tonnes.

The first crop, as currently being seeded, will expand by 3.67m tonnes year on year to 28.7m tonnes, reflecting in the main increased expectations for output in Rio Grande do Sul.

“Planting is advanced in the south of the country, where frequent and well-distributed rainfall favours initial development,” Conab said, adding that producers were “alert” to the threat of spittlebug pests, which crimped 2021-22 yields in southern Brazil.

Export prospects

The record corn harvest would allow Brazilian record corn exports of 45.0m tonnes in 2022-23, up by 8.0m tonnes year on year.

For soybeans, Brazil’s exports were pegged at 95.9m tonnes, also an all-time high, and up by 17.6m tonnes year on year.

“This increase reflects a greater supply of crop in the 2022-23 harvest, combined with an increase in world demand and a forecast of a reduction in exports from the United States”, said Allan Silveira, Conab’s head of market studies and supply management.

The domestic crush was seen as expanding too, by 2.36m tonnes to 51.2m tonnes, on expectations that Brazil will increase the mandate for mixing biodiesel, made from soyoil, into transport diesel, with the bureau assuming a 14% blend rate.