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Brazil meat processors will need corn imports as domestic prices soar

Brazil's chicken and pork processors will need to import corn starting in May as domestic prices of the cereal are historically high, according to projections by meat lobby group ABPA.

9 April 2020, at 12:00am

Corn prices in the physical market surpassed 60 reais ($11.49) per 60-kg bag last week, the highest nominal value in history, reflecting low stockpiles after record exports in 2019, reported Reuters.

Corn imports may come from Argentina and Paraguay, which are traditional providers during times of short supply in Brazil.

A weakening Brazilian real against the dollar may hamper imports from the United States, the world's largest producer of the cereal.

"We monitor the market ... and imports may be needed as early as May," said ABPA President Francisco Turra. "Corn's first harvest in Brazil was bad because of drought, supply is low and prices are very high."

Brazilian farmers harvest two major corn crops per year, but the second - representing about 75 percent of overall output - will only be ready by mid-June.

Brazil's total corn crop this year is estimated at around 100 million tonnes.

Turra said corn from Argentina and Paraguay is an option for meatpackers based in southern Brazil, because prices may be lower than from the center-west region.

The currencies of Argentina and Paraguay have lost value against major currencies, making these countries attractive suppliers compared with the United States based on exchange rates.

"It is complicated to import corn from the United States," Turra said, referring to the unfavorable exchange rate.

Processors in Brazil's northeast have not bought from the United States this year. They still may, as they do sometimes, especially if there are issues with Brazil's second corn crop, Turra noted.

In the first two months of 2020, corn imports into Brazil jumped about 235 percent to 283,730 tonnes, with Paraguay being the top provider, according to government data.

JBS was a buyer, confirming it acquired at least 100,000 tonnes of Argentine corn for delivery through May 2020.

The company's decision is based on the better pricing from Argentina compared to Brazil's own corn, it said in a statement.

($1 = 5.2232 reais)

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