Strong domestic cotton prices in Brazil are expected to incentivize Brazilian farmers to plant more cotton during the 2018/19 growing season. That is the opinion of the Cotton Section of the Ministry of Agriculture which was expressed at a meeting held last week in Brasilia. The Ministry is expecting the cotton acreage in Brazil to increase 22% from 1.18 million hectares in 2017/18 to 1.44 million hectares in 2018/19.

The Brazilian cotton production is expected to increase 19% in 2018/19 to 2.5 million tons, up from the 2.1 million tons produced in 2017/18. Cotton exports are expected to increase to 1.2 million tons in 2018/19. If these estimates are confirmed, Brazil will have doubled its cotton production over the past three years and it will move into second place in cotton exports surpassing Australia and only trailing the United States.

All of the cotton producing states in Brazil are expected to increase their cotton acreage in 2018/19. The largest producing state is Mato Grosso and farmers in the state are expected to increase their cotton acreage by 18% to 1.0 million hectares. The second largest producing state is Bahia and farmers in that state are expected to increase their cotton acreage by 23% to 325,000 hectares.

According to the president of the Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers (Abrapa), the increase in cotton acreage will come from the switching out of crops such as soybeans and corn and not by the clearing of new land. In Mato Grosso, the vast majority of cotton is produced as the safrinha crop planted after the soybeans are harvested, which can compete with safrinha corn for acreage.

It is not necessarily the case that each additional hectare of safrinha cotton comes at the expense of a hectare of safrinha corn. Only about 50% of the soybeans in Mato Grosso are followed by safrinha corn, so there is room for increases in the acreage of both safrinha cotton and safrinha corn at the same time. The safrinha cotton is generally planted in two specific regions of the state, western Mato Grosso and southeastern Mato Grosso. The safrinha cotton is planted first after the soybeans are harvested because it requires a longer growing season than corn.

In the state of Bahia, the cotton is produced as a full-season crop and it competes with soybeans and corn for acreage because it is planted at the same time as the other two crops.