Brazilian Agriculture

AG_BrasilBy Gilberto Schmidt

Labex Korea – Brazil is one of the largest countries in the world, with an extensive surface of continuous land, a large supply of fresh water, abundant solar energy, and a rich biodiversity. In the past five decades the country has used its abundance and diversity of resources to successfully become a world leader in agricultural production, including food, feed, fiber and renewable energy.

There are two distinct agricultural areas. The first, composed of the southern one-half to two-thirds of the country, has a semi temperate climate, higher rainfall, more fertile soil, more advanced technology and input use, adequate infrastructure, and more experienced farmers. This region produces most of Brazil’s grains and oilseeds and export crops. The other, located in the drought-ridden northeast region and in the Amazon basin, lacks well-distributed rainfall, good soil, adequate infrastructure, and sufficient development capital. Although mostly occupied by subsistence farmers, both regions are increasingly important as exporters of forest products, cocoa, and tropical fruits. Central Brazil contains substantial areas of grassland with only scattered trees. The Brazilian grasslands are far less fertile than those of North America, and are generally more suited for grazing.

Brazilian agriculture is well diversified, and the country is largely self-sufficient in food. Agriculture accounts for 8% of the country’s GDP, and employs about one-quarter of the labor force in more than 6 million agricultural enterprises. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and coffee, and a net exporter of cocoa, soybeans, orange juice, tobacco, forest products, and other tropical fruits and nuts. Livestock production is important in many parts of the country, with rapid growth in the poultry, pork, and milk industries reflecting changes in consumer tastes. On a value basis, production is 60% field crops and 40% livestock. Brazil is a net exporter of agricultural and food products, which account for about 35% of the country’s exports.

In 2008 Brazil exported more than 1500 types of agricultural products to foreign markets, being around 79% was consumed domestically and 21% is shipped to over 212 foreign markets. For sugar cane, orange juice, coffee, beef, soybean, tobacco, broiler and ethanol, Brazil is 1st producer and export and corn the 3rd.

Soybean is the major agricultural crop in Brazil. Its production increase has been a result of high levels of productivity. Over the last 20 years, soybean volume has increased by 3.5, filling up domestic consumption and enabling Brazil’s leverage to second biggest world exporter position. China and the European Union were the destinations for 79% of soybean and its products’ exports in 2009, dozens of other markets also imported, since these products compound both animal and human diets.

The increasing production of corn from double cropping, planted after the soybean summer crop, reduces fixed cost, boosts the growth of the meat industry in Brazil and, at the same time, allows becoming a relevant exporter in these segments.

The combined expansion of the meat production and industrialization leveraged the country to the 1st position in exports worldwide, while keeping up with the domestic market, which presents a high and growing per capita consumption (more than 80kg/inhabitant/year). Brazilian beef is recognized as the “green beef”, once cattle are raised free, in vast pastures. Vegetal feeding avoids harmful illnesses to human beings, such as the mad Cow Disease. Brazilian chicken is present in the meals of consumers of most markets in the world. The integration of the productive chain, from egg to tailored cuts, makes chicken products competitive and adaptable to each and every market niche. The integrated pork productive system results in high quality goods, according to the world’s most rigid standards.

Sugarcane can be transformed in sugar and ethanol, besides other sub-products, such as fertilizer and electricity (from bagasse). In Brazil, production of food, fuel and energy can increase substantially, coexisting with all other food crops and environmental preservation. Brazil is the 1st exporter of sugar, accounting for almost half of the world’s market and leads the exports of ethanol, although 90% of its production is consumed domestically. The use of ethanol as fuel a reduces the emission of pollutants. Almost half of the sources of the Brazilian energy matrix are renewable, sugarcane being the second most important one.

Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of coffee. Over the last 20 years, investment on technology has increased production by 26%, while area has decreased by 38%.  Europe is its main market.

Brazilian climate diversity allows the production of several types of fruits in distinctive regions of the country. It is also possible to produce in different seasons of the year.

Finally, Brazil is a big exporter of wood, wood products and celluloses. It has leadership in the hardwood pulp market. Wood and paper industries in Brazil are based on planted forests.

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