Agricultural Research in Brazil – part II

Brazilian Agriculture - From the 50´s to the 90´s   -- Source:  Embrapa

Brazilian Agriculture - - From the 50´s to the 90´s - Source: Embrapa

Historians describe organized agricultural research beginning in Brazil in the 19th century, at the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, that was established in 1808.  During that period, Brazil’s predominant agricultural products were coffee and sugarcane. By the end of that century, the Imperial government established the Agronomic Station of Campinas, a federal institute that was transferred to the state government of São Paulo in 1891.  Renamed as Agronomic Institute of Campinas (IAC), and fully operational to this day, IAC is the oldest agricultural research organization in the country.

The First World War, the economic crisis of 1929 and the Brazilian Revolution of 1930 led to substantial changes in the focus of agricultural production in the country, with intensification of cropping systems other than coffee and sugarcane.  Products such as cotton, corn, orange and other foodstuffs started to gain expression, supported by public policies of import substitution.  Increasing government support to agriculture was observed in the first half of the 20th century, with the creation of institutes and agencies such as the Office of Cocoa (1931), the National Coffee Department (1933), the Institute of Sugar and Alcohol (1931), the National Institute of Rubber (1942), among others.  However, agricultural innovation was limited in the country and most  agricultural production remained concentrated in a relatively narrow strip along the Atlantic coastal area.

Only in the 1960´s begins a process of modernization of the agricultural sector in Brazil.  In 1965, a National Rural Credit Program is created, providing financing to modern inputs and equipments.  Other important support policies like Warranty Policy for Minimum Prices of various agricultural products were created, improving stock control, commercialization and logistics.   In the 1970´s the government creates PROAGRO – a Rural Insurance Program, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization – Embrapa, and the Enterprise for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension – Embrater.  Also, many state governments created their own agricultural research organizations at that time.  Embrapa, state research institutes and agricultural universities became part of the National System for Agricultural Research (SNPA), one of the largest agricultural research networks in the tropical world.

Therefore, the substantial modernization of agriculture in Brazil, observed in the 70’s and early 80’s, was a result of coordinated policies that led to increased R&D capacity and increased volume of credit, tied to support policies of stock management, improved distribution and commercialization of food and agroindustrial products. These coordinated policies and support mechanisms led to a better allocation of resources, increased productivity, improved product quality and reducing food prices.

However, this phase was dominated by subsidized credit, which had to be almost totally discontinued by the end of the 80´s due to successive crises and high inflation.  In the first half of the 90´s, due to the scarcity of public resources, a substantial downsizing of rural extension was carried out throughout the country. Still, in the late 80´s and the 90´s some remaining compensation policies favored the expansion of production in Central Brazil, supported by development of innovative technologies to overcome the severe limitations of the savannahs, known as “cerrado”.  Technologies to remove soil acidity, build soil fertility, improve crop and animal management, among others, were developed and quickly incorporated by farmers.

With the end of inflation and stabilization of the economy, in the second half of the 1990s, the private sector started to occupy a more active role in credit, marketing, commercialization and agricultural innovation, with increasing investments in R&D.  The Government gradually moved away from functions like price controls, production management and sole provider of R&D capacity.  More recently, special attention has been given to the Agrarian Reform and to social policies to support family farming, like the creation of PRONAF – the National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture.  Also, policies and programs directed to increase sustainability in the agricultural sector are gaining increasing attention.

To learn more…

ARAÚJO, FC; NASCIMENTO, EP – O papel do estado na promoção da sustentabilidade da agricultura. Revista da UFG, Vol. 7, No. 01, junho 2004.
BELIK,W. Estado, Grupos de Interesse e Formulação de Políticas para a Agropecuária. Revista de Economia e Sociologia Rural. Sober, Brasília, v. 36, n.1, p.9-33, jan/mar 1998.
BESKOW, PR. A Influência das Políticas Agrícolas Regionais na Formação da Moderna Agricultura Brasileira. Agricultura em São Paulo, Instituto de Economia Agrícola, São Paulo, v.48, n.2, p.83-100, 2001.
GASQUES, JG e CONCEIÇÃO, JCPR da (org). Transformações da Agricultura e Políticas Públicas. IPEA, Brasília. 2001. 539p.


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