* Rain this week comes on top of moisture boost last weekend
* Cool evening temperatures favor sugar concentration
SAO PAULO, April 24 Brazil's world-leading
sugarcane belt will get widespread rain later this week that
will help to speed growth in much of the main center-south crop
that dry weather in February and March had stunted, local
weather forecaster Somar said.
The new, heavy rainfall expected over all of Sao Paulo and
Parana states in the second half of this week will likely push
back the start of harvesting until next week, meteorologist
Marco Antonio dos Santos said in a bulletin released late on
The new rains will add to the soil moisture accumulated over
the past weekend, during which rains over the main cane belt
helped newly planted cane fields which had been struggling under
the dry weather of the past months.
In addition to the return of regular rainfall over the cane
areas, night temperatures have dropped.
This "allows for a greater concentration of sugars in the
plants, ... especially in those cane plants that are in the
final stage of maturation prior to being harvested in the coming
weeks," Santos said.
He went on to say that despite the new rains and the
favorable temperatures, the growth of biomass is still below
normal for this time of year.
Some areas in northwestern Sao Paulo and eastern Mato Grosso
do Sul remained more than 40 percent shy of normal soil moisture
levels, Somar said.
Brazil's center-south cane crop, which accounts for 90
percent of the country's total output, fell for the first time
in 11 years last season to 493 million tonnes due to drought and
aging cane fields whose yields dropped rapidly.
Forecasts for the new crop that officially started in April
are all over the map, ranging from 460 million tonnes to 560
million. The harvest typically runs until November or December.
Santos commented on the forecast by Canaplan released last
Thursday, which was one of the lowest views on the new crop at
470 million tonnes. He said output would only fall to this level
if there were a "climatological disaster" in the second half of
He said it would require conditions similar to 2009 when
unusually wet weather suspended harvesting for 60 days and
reduced the sugar content within the cane.
He said that 510-520 million tonnes was more likely at this
point to be the outcome of the center-south crush this year.
The four month weather outlook was for wetter weather, which
would favor the development of the cane crop that would be
harvested in the second half of 2012.
For FACTBOX on recent cane forecasts:
(Reporting by Reese Ewing and Sofina Mirza-Reid)