It seems like yesterday we were getting ready for the harvest season to begin in Brazil; it normally starts around the middle of March for most grain crops. At press time, the middle of July, soybeans, corn, popcorn and drybeans were long done.
However, we are only about 30% done with our cotton harvest for the season, and it seems to be going more slowly than normal. We are not concerned about getting the cotton harvested before the rainy season begins, but we will be pushing the ginning/processing limits right up to the wire.
Our cotton gin was a new addition to our company, Global Ag Investments, this year. The 10-stand gin can process about 16,000 acres of cotton, or roughly 45,000-50,000 500-lb. bales. It will have to run 24/7 for the next three months for us to complete our ginning needs for the year.
The prices for the three main crops grown in Bahia are at fantastic levels. Soybean prices for 2009 are about $12.20/bu. (U.S.), corn is around $7.50/bu. and cotton is around 70¢/lb. All of these crops have us pushing the pencil as to what will make us the most money as we decide final planting intentions for the coming season.
WE ARE PRETTY sold on pushing as many corn acres as we can, since we are able to produce well above Bahia's 110-bu./acre average. The difference in planting corn in Brazil vs. Iowa is our soil. It's a limiting factor here due to how long it has been in production, how much lime has been applied to it, etc. We don't want to push corn on any of our soils that are under 4-5 years in age, since we feel they won't have the fertility needed to get us to our production goals.
We plan on planting 4,000-5,000 acres of corn this year, with another 1,500-2,000 acres of popcorn. Beans will take up the bulk of our acres at around 25,000 acres; cotton will be 8,000-10,000 and we will fill in the rest with specialty crops.
MOST FARMERS WILL agree that we have to stay ahead of the curve by continually trying to grow more with less, and we hope new technology and GPS precision-farming systems will give us an edge in global agriculture. As we have all seen a rise in commodity prices this year, most will agree that fertilizer and inputs are nipping at our heels to be better producers and marketers, and the stakes have never been higher.
The last three years, Global Ag Investments has expanded aggressively in Brazil. We have continued to see an economic gain in renting land, working on the economies of scale and lowering our risk by diversifying crops and locations in case of disease and weather issues.
This year we added about 12,000 acres to the mix for the 2008-2009 season, pushing us up to around 44,000 acres. Our land base from south to north operations covers about 125 miles and consists of three main operating headquarters.
On a side note, we have a new planter that we are importing to Brazil that is stuck on a ship at port in the U.S. because there is a problem with a door on the ship deck. I am starting to get pretty nervous, because I know we will need all the extra time we can get to have it cleared.