Soyabean yields in Uruguay are exceeding expectations due to well-timed rainfall, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), while planted area is forecast to expand.

Based on higher estimated planted area and yields, the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) published on 11 April estimated that soyabean production would reach 2.95M tonnes in the 2021/22 marketing year, representing an increase of 930,000 tonnes compared to the official USDA estimate.

“Uruguayan farmers are experiencing better than expected growing conditions, especially relative to farmers in neighbouring southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Above average yields are anticipated for both first and second crop soyabeans in 2021/2022,” the report said.

“These high yields across an expanded growing area combined with high global commodity prices should result in excellent economic returns for the Uruguayan agricultural sector and a boost to the Uruguayan economy as a whole.”

Rapeseed has rapidly emerged as a key winter oilseed in recent years, according to the report, with planted area in the 2022/23 marketing year projected at 205,000ha and production volumes of 316,000 tonnes.

“The most dramatic change to Uruguayan cropping practices in recent years has been the rapid adoption of rapeseed as a competitor to wheat and barley in the winter crop rotation. Private sector contacts estimate that rapeseed could eventually account for one third of winter crop planted acreage,” the report said.

In 2022/23, the USDA forecast soyabean planted area to continue to expand to 1.225M ha and production to reach 2.8M tonnes.

However, growth in area had been slower than anticipated due to strong competition by cattle and dairy producers for marginal land and less foreign investment than in the 2008-2014 expansionary period, the report said.

Securing sufficient fertiliser supplies due to disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine had complicated upcoming crop planning, the report said, and stocks were low in Uruguay.

“These factors, along with concerns about fertiliser availability and other rising input costs are expected to continue to constrain area expansion in 2022/2023 despite near record high prices,” the report said.

For the 2022/2023 marketing year, the report projected Uruguayan soyabean exports at 2.6M tonnes, an 8% drop compared to revised 2021/2022 projected exports. The decrease was due to lower expected production, the USDA said.