Aug 13, 2021

Drought & Frosts Result in Disappointing Sugarcane Crop in Brazil

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Drought and frosts continue to take a toll on the 2021/22 Brazilian sugarcane crop which is in the process of being harvested. In south-central Brazil, both the yields and the quality of the sugarcane has declined since a series of frosts swept across southern Brazil during the month of July according to the Union of Sugarcane Industries (Unica). As of August 1st, there were 255 sugar mills operating in Brazil compared to 264 at this time last year.

Even before the frosts, a historic drought had already impacted the sugarcane crop. The amount of sugarcane harvest thus far this season until August 1st has totaled 304 million tons or 7.3% less than compared to the 328 million harvested last year (the sugarcane harvest season in Brazil starts April 1st). According to the Sugarcane Technology Center (CTC) which sampled 68 sugar mills, the average production during the month of July was 73.7 tons per hectare compared to 89.9 tons a year earlier or a decline of 17.9%.

For the harvest thus far, sugarcane yields are down 12.5% from 86.5 tons per hectare last year to 75.7 tons per hectare this year. By the end of July, farmers in Brazil had harvested 4.02 million hectares of sugarcane, which is up 5.4% compared to last year.

The frosts have resulted in deteriorating quality of the sugarcane as well. During the second half of July, the total recoverable sugars (ATR) was running at 146.86 kg/ha, which was down 0.9% compared to a year earlier. Prior to the frosts, the ATR was higher than last year. Therefore, the yield and the quality of the sugarcane has declined since the frosts. The frosts alone are expected to result in losses of at least 5 tons per hectare along with lower quality as well.

During the month of July, southern Brazil experienced some of the coldest temperatures in 20 to 25 years and where the frosts were most severe, sugar mill operators are rushing to harvest the most impacted crop before the quality of the sugarcane deteriorates even further.

Thus far this harvest season, Brazil has produced 18.29 million tons of sugar compared to 19.82 million last year. Brazil has produced thus far 14.11 billion liters of ethanol with 6.9% coming from corn (981.16 million liters). The percent of Brazil's ethanol produced from corn will increase later in the year when the sugarcane harvest ends sometime between October and December.