Ukraine: Brazil to export more corn, but fears running out of Russian fertilizers

Posted 14 March, 2022

A windfall for its corn exports or concern for its massive imports of fertilizers, Brazil, a leading agricultural producer, is awaiting with concern the impact of Russia's war against Ukraine, which is currently very unpredictable.

Since the beginning of the attacks on Ukraine by Russia at the end of February, doubt hangs over the capacity of the two countries, respectively fourth and fifth world exporters of corn during the 2019-2020 season, according to figures from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to ensure deliveries of the cereal, whose prices have risen sharply.

This could represent a short-term boon for producers in Brazil, the world's third-largest corn exporter.

After experiencing a sharp drop last year due to weather conditions, the 2021/2022 Brazilian corn harvest could increase by 29% compared to the previous one, the National Supply Company (Conab) announced last Thursday in its monthly report.

"The price of maize has reached one of the highest levels ever observed and it is attractive for the Brazilian producer, a factor that contributes to the increase in planting area" for maize from the second harvest, the most important of the season, João Pedro Lopes, of the commodity market analysis firm StoneX, told AFP.

Regarding sales abroad, "the increase in Brazilian production, aligned with rising global demand and a favorable exchange rate, should allow a 67% increase in exports" of Brazilian corn in 2022, underlines the government body.

Latin America's biggest economy could climb to second place among exporters in 2021-2022 if its good harvest continues, according to USDA estimates.


Fertilizer Supply


The effects of the conflict are already being felt on Brazilian exports: "Foreign demand for an immediate shipment of Brazilian maize came suddenly, which is not normal for the first half of the year (during which Brazil 'not exported, editor's note) and demand also accelerated for the second half, "says Paulo Roberto Molinari, an analyst at Safras e Mercado.

Cesario Ramalho, institutional president of the Brazilian Association of Corn Producers (Abramilho), calls for caution for the future: "We have no guarantee on the issue of maritime transport of goods", seriously disturbed by the war, “nor on that of the supply of fertilizers,” he explains to AFP.

Brazil imports about 80% of the fertilizers it uses and 20% of them come from Russia, its main supplier, whose export capacities are affected by Western economic sanctions, just like its neighbor Belarus, another major fertilizer supplier, also harshly punished.

Last week, Brazil's Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina said Brazil had sufficient stocks until October - but said the country was already negotiating with other major fertilizer exporters.


Mining activities on indigenous lands


In its National Plan on Fertilizers for 2050, which has just been launched and to which AFP has had access, the Brazilian government also intends to stimulate the domestic production of these products and to invest in the "discovery of new deposits" of minerals in the country, and in their exploitation.

The subject was also raised last Monday by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, for whom the conflict between Russia and Ukraine represents "an opportunity" to have a controversial bill approved authorizing mining activity on indigenous lands in the Amazon. in particular, currently under discussion in Congress.

Rising sharply, the cost of fertilizers worries the agricultural sector: in February, the price of a tonne of fertilizer imported by Brazil had already jumped 129% compared to February 2021.

The large demand for animal rations based on corn and soy, whose prices have also increased, chicken and pig farms, meats for which Brazil was respectively the world's leading and fourth supplier in 2020, also see their production costs increase.

"This can have an impact on the quantity produced, due to lower margins", underlines Fernando Ferreira, of the investment firm XP Investimentos.




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