SAO PAULO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Brazilian soybean export premiums have nearly doubled from a year ago as a stronger currency encouraged local producers to delay sales of an expected record crop, Thomson Reuters data showed on Thursday.
Export premiums rose to 57 cents a bushel over February futures in Chicago, 90 percent up from the 30 cents premium offered in early 2016. S-BRZPAR-B1
Soybean prices in reais are 24 percent below their 2016 peak, at 74.52 reais per 60-kg bag at the Paranagua port, as the local currency gained nearly 30 percent since early last year. The Brazilian real is currently trading at a near-two-month high, just above 3.2 per dollar.
"If premiums were much lower, there would not be any deal. Demand is firm, but producers are reluctant to sell," said Glauco Monte, commodities director at brokerage INTL FCStone.
Forward sales are below their historical average at about 34 percent of expected production so far, compared with 40 percent at this time last year, consultancy AgRural said in December. Traders say they are delaying deals as much as possible in hope of better prices.
The government's crop supply agency Conab forecast that the 2016/17 soy harvest would reach a record 102.45 million tonnes, up 7 percent from the previous season.
There are reports of early harvesting in small areas of top producing states. As work gains pace, large volumes of soybean should reach the market in January, in a period of the year when usually there is not relevant supply to feed exports.
"Expectations are for a very good crop in Brazil... and for an early harvest. Buyers are showing up and exporters are trying to get more beans out of producers' hands," said Pedro Dejneka, president of analysis firm AGR Brasil, in Chicago.
With prospects of stiff competition at the ports when harvest hits full throttle, analysts expect premiums to drop soon.
"Sales will be concentrated during the harvesting period. Premiums will drop, and spot prices will come under pressure in February and March," FCStone's Monte said. (Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Andrew Hay)