Rio de Janeiro-On his farm in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil’s grain basket, Ilson Jose Redivo finished planting his corn crop a few weeks ago, acting quickly once he’d harvested the soybeans that he’d grown on the same fields. In this region of west-central Brazil, the fields stretch as far as the eye can see and the schedule is well established: The farmer plants the two crops, soybean and corn, on “almost 100 percent” of his over 1,550 hectares (3,800 acres). The corn will be harvested in June. The corn is a second crop, or “small crop,” which Brazilians call a “safrinha.” Over the past decade, the second crop has turned into Brazil’s main corn crop and taken an increasing share of world corn production. This year’s expected production should hit a record, making Brazil the world’s leading corn exporter ahead of the United States, a position it has only reached once before, in 2013.
Production is expected to hit 124.9 million tons (up 10.4 percent compared to last year), of which 76.3 percent is second crop, according to the latest report from the National Supply Company (Conab), published this week. This is despite a “delay in the soybean harvest” due to a “surplus of rain” in Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soybeans and corn, where the mild winter and the distribution of rainfall allow a second annual harvest. The increase in the price of the cereal grain, driven by the opening of corn ethanol plants from 2017, has encouraged producers to invest more in “safrinha,” says Redivo, who spoke by phone to AFP.
“Corn as a second crop has become more attractive, so we have acquired more fertilizers, genetically improved seeds and farm machinery that allows for faster and more accurate planting,” he stresses.
“We have been able to increase the area” devoted to corn cultivation, “improve our productivity and thus increase our production significantly.”
Genetically modified varieties now occupy almost all of Brazil’s cornfields.