Brazil's crops of corn and soybean has been downgraded from previous forecasts because of the persistent drought in the southern states, said on Thursday the country's Ministry of Agriculture.
The corn crop is now estimated in 52.3 million metric tons, down from the December 8 forecast of 54.4 million tons. Similarly with soybeans, the new estimate is 57.8 million tons, compared to 58.8 million tons a month ago. Brazil is the world's second producer and the third main exporter of corn. Dry conditions have affected corn and soybean farms in Brazil, Argentina that are the biggest exporters of both after the US. Smaller producing countries such as Paraguay and Uruguay are also suffering the lack of rain for summer crops. "The period of low precipitation and irregular rainfall that has stricken the South of Brazil has already started to cause serious damage," the ministry's crop-forecasting agency, known as Conab, said in the report. "Most corn crops are in the flowering stage, a crucial moment." Corn production will fall from 58.7 million tons last year, while soybean will drop from 60 million tons, Conab said. Agriculture minister Reinhold Stephanes said that lack of significant rainfall could further cut into the crops. He said "corn could drop to about 50 million tons, while soybean production may not exceed 53 million tons". But in spite of the drought in the southern states rich farmlands, heavy rains in the Parana, Paraguay basin have been helping Brazil boost hydroelectric energy production cutting demand for Bolivian natural gas. According to Bolivian presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas Brazil has reduced its daily gas purchases to 21 million cubic meters from 31 million cubic meters, which means an estimated reduction of 30%. Brazil depends on natural gas from Bolivia, which has the continent's second-largest reserves. Canelas also revealed that the consequences of reduced gas sales were discussed Wednesday at an extraordinary cabinet meeting with President Evo Morales. Bolivia's gas sales to Brazil and Argentina are the country's main source of internation al reserves.