Brazil grain production to rise on bumper corn crop: Conab

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SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian farmers are expected to harvest up to 238.54 million tonnes of grain in the 2018/19 season, the government said on Thursday, with the South American country potentially breaking its production record thanks to expected corn and soy bumper crops.

In the prior season, Brazilian farmers harvested some 227.91 million tonnes of grains like soybeans and corn, said Conab, the government food supply and statistics agency.

Much of the gain is expected to be in corn, with output expected to rise as much as 12.75 percent to 91.08 million tonnes, Conab said in its first forecast for the 2018/19 season, which kicked off in September.

Brazil’s soybean output could total 119.42 million tonnes in 2019, roughly in line with this year’s record of 119.28 million tonnes, Conab said. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soy.

Levels of farm credit, strong fertilizer sales and the intention of farmers to plant at least 61 million hectares (150 million acres) of grain all indicate a strong harvest.

“If we have ideal weather ... we could have the biggest Brazilian grain crop,” Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said at a briefing to announce the forecast.

Recent bumper crops have been eagerly sought by China, whose demand for Brazilian grains skyrocketed this year as a result of the country’s trade war with the United States.

Conab expects Brazil to export 76 million tonnes of soybeans in 2018, an all-time high since records began, and 75 million tonnes in 2019.

Maggi said the hope is for strong Chinese demand to continue next year, although he was concerned that the high premium Brazilian soy was receiving over Chicago prices could distort the market in the future.

Reporting by Ana Mano Sao Paulo and Jake Spring in Brasilia; Editing by Leslie Adler