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This is a transcript of episode seven of the Down to Agribusiness podcast. Visit the show page here.


The world's feeder: A 10-year outlook on Brazil's sugar, coffee and grains production

Gareth Moore

Hello and welcome to episode seven of the Down to Agribusiness podcast – I’m Gareth Moore. In this episode, we move our attention to agri-mecca, Brazil. Brazil is set to go from strength to strength following 10-year preliminary mid-term forecasts made by Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Production and Supplies (MAPA). However, obstacles are still apparent for the grains, coffee and sugar crops of the “world’s feeder”. I’m joined by Senior Softs and Grains Analyst for IEG Vu, Sandra Boga, to outline the ministry’s outlook.

Hello Sandra, now can you give us a basic overview of how Brazilian grains will fare over the next 10 years?

Sandra Boga
Well, MAPA has again boosted its ten-year forecast for planted acreage devoted to most of its grain crops such as corn, wheat and soy (which is considered a grain rather than oilseed in this instance) however not the case for rice.

In total, planted grain acreage will grow to 66.72 million hectares in the 2026/27, season (which also includes beans, in terms of pulses).

As I mentioned, rice’s acreage is set to drop and will be halved over next ten years; the surface under soy will rise though by around 10 mln hectares; corn and wheat will also go through an expansion, but more so for corn than for wheat.

However, overall, higher crop yields will continue to be the main driving force behind Brazil’s rising grain production in the years to come, with rice and corn set to be the front runners. So while grain acreage will rise by 1.6% per year, production is expected to increase by 2.6%.

Gareth
Let’s look into soy, Brazil’s second most lucrative crop after sugar; will it still continue to be so in 10 years’ time?

Sandra
Yes, according to MAPA, soy will tighten its grip on the first place in the ranking of the country’s most important grain crops with an expected production of 146.5 million tonnes in 2026/27. Nevertheless, this growth rate is lower than the 89.8% increase in soy production registered over the past decade.

The soy area will increase by 9.3 mln ha in the next ten years, reaching 43.2 mln ha in 2026/27. It is the crop that will see the greatest expansion in surface terms in the next decade, followed by sugar cane that will add an additional 1.9 mln ha. This represents a 27.5% increase in surface from the acreage that soy had in 2016/17.

Significantly for Brazil’s soybean sector, the ministry predicts a healthy 33.5% increase of soybean exports to 84.11 mln tonnes in 2026/27.

Gareth
What about corn exports, will they also see considerable increases?

Sandra
Yes, Brazilian corn exports are expected to jump 37.80% from 25.5 mln tonnes in 2017 to 35.1 mln tonnes in 2026/27, possibly even reaching 51.3 mln tonnes in the best-case scenario. This is a higher rise than the expected 33.50% rise in soy grain exports over the next ten years.

This result is possible thanks to an expected increase in Brazil’s corn production from an estimated 92.8 mln tonnes in 2016/17 to 118.8 mln tonnes in 2026/27.

Gareth
How about lower profile grains such as wheat and rice? Will Brazil lessen its reliance on importing these?

Sandra
Brazil’s wheat production is expected to increase from 5.2 mln tonnes in 2016/17 to 6.8 mln tonnes in 2026/27, which is a less ambitious target than the 7.5 mln tonnes in 2025/26 that was predicted in last year’s MAPA forecast. However, the ministry admitted that this large gap between production and consumption will require imports of around 6.2 mln tonnes of wheat grain in 2026/27, which is roughly the mid-point of the 5.5-7.0 mln tonne range that Brazil has been importing in recent years.

MAPA expects rice production will rise 0.5% per year over the next decade until reaching 12.6 mln tonnes in 2026/27. Consequently, Brazilian authorities now expect rice imports to decline at a faster rate to 731,000 tonnes, instead of last year’s predicted drop to 1.05 mln tonnes by 2025/26.

Gareth
Now let’s move onto soft commodities; what is MAPA’s general outlook for sugar and coffee over the next 10 years?

Sandra
Well, overall Brazil’s sugar output is predicted to rise 2.8% per year in the period between 2016/17 and 2026/27, until reaching a new high of 50.44 million tonnes, according to MAPA’s new mid-term forecasts. So overall, this new production level will represent a 30.3% increase over the 38.70 million tonnes of sugar that are expected to be produced in the season of 2016/17.

As for coffee, both output and exports are set to continue growing; production by 33.6% until reaching 63 mln sacks in 2026/27 and exports by 24.4% over the next ten years until reaching 47 million sacks (60 kilos).

Gareth
What are the concerns surrounding coffee production outlooks?

Sandra
Well, climate change is a huge factor, as well as it is for other crops. Coffee production in Brazil tended to have a biannual cycle in terms of production volumes between 2002 and 2013, with one year of higher production volumes followed by one-year of lower harvests.

However, recent years of drought has led to yearly drops in output. Drier conditions could also impact coffee growing going forward, reducing the acreage suitable for coffee growing by half in the next three decades according to MAPA.

Gareth
And finally, what lies ahead for the world’s leading sugar producer in the face of lower prices?

Sandra
Well, the sugar sector has suffered from lower yields as a result of lower investments in the sugar-alcohol complex and adverse climate conditions for sugar cane production. This combined with lower sugar prices have caused the bankruptcy or deactivation of many sugar refineries, but many of these factors could be reverted during the forecast period, according to MAPA.

However, in the current situation when sugar prices are falling, the tendency is for production to be channelled towards ethanol. This possibility of directing raw material for production of sugar or ethanol, depending on the market conditions, makes forecasting harder, MAPA has indicated.

So, all in all, while all of Brazil’s major crops are set to continue growing over the next 10 years; for sure climatic and economic elements are still clearly going to play their part and likely impact the trajectory of its agri-products. The country has recently coined the term “Brasil alimentado o mundo”, translates as “Brazil feeding the world”, this certainly still rings true and is likely to continue to do so in the years to come, despite the obstacles.

Gareth
Thank you, Sandra, for this insightful discussion.

Throughout the month of August, IEG Vu will be publishing a series of 3 x 10 year outlooks from Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture - looking at sugar, coffee and grains. These will be available for all IEG Vu subscribers in the respective channel areas at ieg-vu.com. If you’re not a subscriber, visit ieg-vu.com/info to request your free trial of the service and to find out more.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this podcast episode, or if you have a topic you’d like us to cover, you can reach out to us on Twitter using #DowntoAgribusiness. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or agribusinessintelligence.com where you’ll also find additional resources on this topic. Thanks for listening.

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