Brazil sugar crop struggles with drought, age-Unica

Brazil’s sugar cane sector expects the main center-south crop to yield 5.7 percent more sugar this season, as it grapples to reverse the effects of

ageing crops and persistent drought that reduced the region’s output last year, its first decline in more than a decade.

Sugar output from the center-south, which accounts for 90 percent of Brazil’s cane, will reach 33.1 million tonnes this April-March season, up from 31.3 million last year, industry association Unica said in its first forecast of the season.

Nearly all the added output from the region will go to sugar exports that are seen rising 8.5 percent to 24 million tones from 22.11 million tonnes last season, Unica said.

But as for growth in the amount of crushable cane, Unica’s outlook is on the low side when compared with other forecasts of the crop that accounts for half the world’s trade in sugar.

The center-south is expected to crush 509 million tonnes in the season that began in April, recovering only 3.2 percent from 493.2 million tonnes last year, Unica said. The increase is due largely to expanded area which is seen up 3 percent. Unica did not give an absolute number for total planted area.

The government’s crop supply agency Conab released its first official forecast of the cane crop on Tuesday. It sees the center-south crop at 532 million tonnes.

Continued dry weather over the cane belt and the slow pace of replanting aged cane fields will keep the output of cane per hectare at the lowest in over 20 years, Unica said.

“The growth in area crushed ought to be the determining factor, as yields (of cane/hectare) are not expected to improve,” Unica said in the report released on Thursday morning.

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