Record cold weather hit much of the South American continent this week, devastating crops, reducing yields and driving up prices. Thanks to a powerful Antarctic air mass, countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil are suffering from unprecedented cold and historic snowfalls.
Severe frosts have been reported in sugar cane, coffee and corn fields in Brazil.
Extremely cold temperatures were reported Wednesday, June 30, all the way from the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul to northern São Paulo, according to analysts and meteorological agencies.
“Record low temperatures have been recorded in São Paulo, and further temperature drops are expected. We haven’t seen frosts like this in Brazil in a long time,” said meteorologist Marco Santos.
Severe frosts were widespread, from small coffee fields in the state of Paraná to huge arabica crops in the state of São Paulo (Brazil’s second-largest coffee producer after Minas Gerais).
There have also been reports of frost in sugar cane fields in São Paulo, a region that accounts for more than 60 percent of the country’s sugar production.
“For sugar cane, the consequences are more serious (than for coffee),” explained Celso Oliveira, a local meteorologist.
“When the frost hits, the cane stops growing, and that reduces the sugar content,” Oliveira explained. “So farmers are harvesting earlier than ideal because they’re trying to reduce losses and start processing earlier.”
Meteorologists said significant corn losses have also been reported as extreme cold persists in areas such as Paraná, Brazil’s second-largest cereal producer.
“Significant losses are likely,” tweeted Arlan Suderman, chief commodity economist at StoneX Group, who added: “Some corn is still pollinated in the region due to late planting.”
Unfavorable conditions early in the season have caused South American corn to sprout late in the fields this year.
Late planting means the risk that key developmental milestones for starter crops will coincide with the colder months of winter. This year’s record cold early season exposes young crops to frost – as a result, analysts fear the worst and predict big crop losses.
“The market is concerned about broken contracts; crop losses will be above 60% in the state of Paraná,” Victor Martins, hedge advisor at Hedgepoint Global Markets, told Agricensus.
“There’s no widespread talk of increased imports yet, but I don’t rule out an increase in Argentine imports,” Martins said, as Brazil seeks to plug holes in its domestic corn supply.
“Atmospheric conditions remain favorable for frosts in almost all regions,” Simepar, the official meteorological agency of Paraná, said in a statement, as the polar air mass responsible for this big frost continues its steady march up the continent to cover even central Brazilian regions.