BRAZIL: Heavy rainfall continues to hammer cane harvest
Published: 06/15/2012, 7:25:10 AM
Unseasonally heavy rainfall and aging sugarcane spelled trouble for the beginning of Brazil's key centre-south sugarcane harvest in the second half of May, even as more mills began operating, according to Dow Jones.
Mills in the centre-south, where nearly 90% of Brazil's sugarcane is grown, crushed 35.62 million metric tonnes of cane in the second half of last month, down 18% from a year earlier, UNICA said in a biweekly crop update.
Since the 2012/13 harvest began in April, sugarcane processing is down 30% at 70.71 million tonnenes, due mainly to unusually heavy rainfall in April and May, when Brazil's dry season is supposed to start.
"The rains significantly slowed the harvest at the end of May," UNICA interim President Antonneio de Padua Rodrigues said in a statement. "However, the biggest impact will be observed in the results from the first half of June."
With hardly a third of this month past, the city of Sao Paulo had already registered its highest rainfall totals in 25 years, Brazil's Somar Meteorologia reported at the beginning of this week. The state's main sugarcane-growing regions, which lie further from the coast, have seen less rain than the city but are likely to surpass monthly averages, meteorologist Olivia Nunes said.
Mills in centre-south Brazil, by far the world's largest sugar producer and exporter, made 1.96 million tonnes of the sweetener during the second half of May, down 19% from a year earlier.
Production of ethanol, a major fuel source in the South American country, fell 26% to 1.29 billion liters during the period.
As of May 31, UNICA said 278 sugarcane mills in the centre-south had begun crushing for the 2012/13 season, down from 289 a year earlier. The association added that 12 mills that operated last year will not open this season.
Adding to the sector's worries, the quality of the sugarcane harvested in the second half of May declined 5.8% year-on-year to 119.5 kilograms per tonne of recoverable sugars per of cane, UNICA said.
"If the weather conditions seen in recent weeks persist in coming months, sugar content for the 2012/13 crop could be less than we initially expected," Rodrigues said.
Centre-south sugarcane fields remain overdue for replanting to increase their productivity. The average age of sugarcane harvested in May was 3.74 years, up from 3.45 years a year earlier, UNICA said.