SAO PAULO, March 19 (Reuters) - Brazil’s 2014/15 sugar cane crop that has started early crushing in the south will suffer losses on average of 5 percent to 10 percent from recent dry weather this year, the Chief Financial Officer of Raizen, Pedro Mizutani, said on local TV.
Speaking at an agricultural event televised by the Bioenergy Producers Association (Udop) on Wednesday, Mizutani said rains have returned in March to the cane-growing area of center-south Brazil but the risk will be rains in May and June.
Mizutani said Raizen, the world’s largest sugar and ethanol producer, will start harvesting in April on schedule 60 million to 62 million tonnes of cane, unchanged from last year when it churned out 2.2 billion liters of ethanol and 4.4 million tonnes of sugar.
Raizen is a joint venture between Brazil’s Cosan and Royal-Dutch Shell Plc.
The company had hoped to reach 65 million tonnes of cane crushed this season but the drought in January and February has pushed that goal back at least another year.
Mizutani said the risk to the sugar sector is any delay in crushing.
“It is looking more and more like an El Nino year, which means a rainier dry season,” he said. “The risk is if it rains in May and June, when you’ve got cane but can’t harvest.”
Mizutani said rains had returned to the cane belt in March, albeit below average for the month.
He said damage to the cane belt due to the drought in January depended on the region, with some areas suffering no losses and others likely to see as much as a 12 percent drop in cane this season.
He added that while mills in Goias state have suffered no losses due to dry weather, the region of Piracicaba, a key sugar cane producing region in Sao Paulo state, suffered losses of 10 percent.
Mizutani did not say how big Raizen thought the new center-south cane crop would be but local analysts have been lowering their expectations of the crop recently to between 570 million and 595 million tonnes, after crushing 596 million tonnes over the past year. (Reporting by Reese Ewing; Editing by James Dalgleish)