El Nino seen bringing drought to Brazil’s north, heavy rains to south

Sao Paulo | Reuters –– Brazil will likely experience a moderate El Nino by the end of the year, bringing steady rain to the country’s main grain-producing regions and sustained drought in the arid north, the national meteorological institute, Inmet, said.

Inmet meteorologist Fabricio Daniel dos Santos Silva said six consecutive quarters of warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean “indicate an El Nino event of weak intensity, tending to pass into a moderate stage by the end of the year.”

El Nino can lead to scorching weather across Asia and east Africa, but heavy rains and floods in parts of South America. It caused food prices to surge in 2009.

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In Brazil, a country the size of the continental U.S. and a top global supplier of sugar, coffee, beef and soybeans, the impact of El Nino’s return will likely be varied.

Dos Santos said in an email late on Monday that El Nino characteristics were already affecting Brazil’s semi-arid northeast, where a severe drought began in late 2014 in one of the country’s poorest regions and is already considered high intensity.

He said the centre-west, home to the top soybean producing state of Mato Grosso, will likely see above-average rains by the end of the year, a forecast farmers who will plant their 2015-16 soybean crops in September are celebrating.

“We usually benefit from more regular rainfall,” Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Mato Grosso state’s soy farmer association, Aprosoja, said of the El Nino forecasts.

In the south, where the No. 2 and No. 3 soy-growing states Parana and Rio Grande do Sul are located, El Nino could also bring above-average rain, especially from May until July, dos Santos said.

He said the effects of El Nino in the southeast cane- and coffee-growing regions would likely be warmer temperatures and not necessarily more rainfall. That is good news for arabica coffee in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, where rains during the May-August harvest have caused damage.

Silas Brasileiro, president of the National Coffee Council, said Parana, which produces two per cent of Brazil’s annual output, was most at risk of seeing coffee cherries damaged during harvest if El Nino intensifies.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecast on May 14 the chance of El Nino conditions developing during the Northern Hemisphere summer at 90 per cent, up from 70 per cent in its April forecast.

Caroline Stauffer is a Reuters correspondent based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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