The Van Trump Report

Brazil’s Corn and Soybean Crops Keep Getting Bigger

Brazil’s corn and soybean crops are again setting new records this season with national crop agency CONAB pegging combined production at a record 322.8 million metric tons (MMT), an increase of just over +50 MMT, or +18% from last year. CONAB estimates the country’s record soybean crop at 154.6 MMT, up +23% year-over-year. The record corn crop, with around 10% left to harvest, is estimated at 131.9 MMT, which CONAB says is an increase of +18.7 MMT compared to last season.

CONAB hasn’t provided 2023/24 estimates yet, but USDA most recently projected Brazil’s 2023/24 corn production will decline slightly to 129 MMT while soybean production is seen climbing around to 163 MMT. For the sake of comparison, Brazil’s corn production in 2000/02 was just 41.5 MMT while soybean production reached only 39.5 MMT. That’s a threefold increase for corn and a more than fourfold increase for soybeans in a little over two decades. So just how much bigger can Brazil’s crops get?

Brazil actually has more arable land than any country in the world but only uses a small fraction. In fact, it’s one of the few countries that has the potential to increase agricultural productivity. Brazil uses around 157 million acres for crop production, of more than 1 billion acres of total potential arable land, according to FAO, suggesting that continued growth of agriculture is possible.

Brazil’s planted corn area in 2000/01 was around 32 million acres, compared to just over 55 million acres in 2022/23. That still significantly trails the 88.6 million US corn acres planted in 22/23 and a projected 94.1 million in 23/24. However, Brazil’s soybean acres have grown even faster, rising from just 34.5 million acres in 2000/02 to almost 109 million in 22/23. That compares to 87.5 million US soybean acres in 22/23 and a projected 83.5 in 23/24.      

Thanks in part to lower acreage, Brazil’s corn production is less than half what US farmers produce, with 2022/23 US production estimated at 348.75 MMT compared to CONAB’s latest estimate of 131.9 MMT. According to CONAB, more than 70% of Brazil’s corn production is from its “safrinha” crop, aka second-crop corn. Over the next five years, it’s estimated that more than +1.2 million additional acres of corn production could be added.  

Brazil’s soybean production, on the other hand, skyrocketed past the US starting in 2019/20. Over the past five years alone, area has increased by +15% and production by +19%. Based on CONAB’s estimate of 154.6 MMT in 2022/23, Brazil’s soybean production will exceed US estimated production of 116.38 by about +34%. Most soybean production has traditionally occurred in the south but more farmers in the north are adding short-maturity soybeans.

Brazil’s production gains have helped the country’s grain and oilseed exports eclipse those from the US. Brazil took the title of world’s top soybean exporter in 2013, while it overtook the US in 2022/23 to become the biggest corn supplier. According to the USDA, Brazil is now a top-5 producer of 34 commodities and is the largest net exporter in the world. (Sources: USDA Economic Research Service, CONAB)

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