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Sales of Brazil's new soybean crop continue to lag well behind normal, but have accelerated since the start of the new year with the advance of early harvest under favorable weather in the center-west, grain analysts said on Monday.

In the current credit environment, with rising international prices and drought over the southern soy-producing states and Argentina, producers have been slow to sell their new crop.

But the start of early harvest earlier in January in Brazil's main soy-producer state of Mato Grosso in the center-west has prompted the sales of beans in recent weeks.

Across the whole of Brazil's soy belt, producers have sold 26% of their crop by Jan. 16, a 3 percentage point jump from the previous week, according to grain analysts Celeres.

But sales are still lagging. By this time last year, 45% of the crop was sold and over the last five years, sales have averaged 41% of the crop by now, Celeres said on Monday in a weekly report.

The producer-linked Mato Grosso State Farm Economy Institute (Imea) said on Monday that 400,000 metric tons of new beans have traded hands in the past two and a half weeks.

"The climate has been good for harvest," Maria Amelia Triloni, an analyst at Imea, told Reuters News Service.

Some producers in the center-west were even concerned last week about the dry weather as the vast majority of their fields still require a few weeks of rain to reach maturity and fill pods with beans.

Local independent forecasters Somar, however, said on Monday that strong rains would likely delay field work in northern Mato Grosso. Showers would also fall over other parts of the center-west but would not interrupt early harvest.

By Jan. 16, producers had collected 1.2% of Mato Grosso's 5.5-million-hectare soy crop, up from 0.6% the week prior, Imea said. The agriculture ministry sees the state crop at 16.8 million tons compared with 17.8 million in 2007-2008.

"This harvesting is occurring in areas that were planted with very early maturing beans to make way to plant cotton. There are big groups that are already harvesting," said Triloni.

She told Reuters yields were within the expected in the 48-60-kg-bag/hectare range forecast by the institute. The western part of the state is most advanced in harvesting. "Sales made earlier this year were for delivery starting from Feb. 15," Triloni said.

By the end of December, Mato Grosso producers had sold 29% of their soy crop, compared with 66% in the same period of 2007. Triloni said this gap has narrowed, but sales still remain behind last year.

In the No.4 soybean-producing state of Goias, also in the center-west, producers' sales of the new crop now starting harvest have reached 33% of the crop, up 10 percentage points from the week earlier, Celeres said.

The analysts said that producers' tendency this year to hold off on selling their crops until later in the year would put them at greater risk of harvest pressure, pushing prices lower by the time they sell.

"In Goias, the standard sale strategy stands apart from last season – that is, with uncertain prices and high production costs, the producer has held onto his crop until the last moment, which has intensified the volume of sales," Celeres said.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.