Brazil’s booming farms reap benefit of weak currency

Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 08/29/2013

Carlos Piassi remembers the reaction from other farmers when he started planting a second annual crop at his farm near Uberlândia, in Brazil’s grain belt.

No one believed it could be done given the semi-arid region’s relatively short rainy season and long dry winter.

“If you had said you were going to plant a safrinha [the small harvest] here five years ago you were called crazy,” he says at his farm, Fazenda Campo Alegre. The naysayers were wrong. “The safrinha between last year and this has about tripled,” he said.

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In Brazil, a landholder who speaks for agribusiness

Juan Forero – The Washington Post, 12/17/2012

A landholder and power broker in the country’s capital, Katia Abreu has heard all the warnings about ranches and soybean farms carving up Brazilian forests.

But as she rides a chestnut mare across fields of sorghum and corn — her 12,355-acre spread here in the soft hills of north-central Brazil — Abreu insists Brazilian farmers should be commended, not demonized. Big Agro has transformed this country into a breadbasket to the world, she said, one that’s poised to feed billions.

“We are not ashamed of anything,” Abreu said. “What’s important is that Brazil increase production.”

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Brazil eyes growing agribusiness in China

Huang Shuo – China Daily, 11/15/2012

The move is aimed at introducing more Brazilian agriculture and livestock products into the Chinese market and luring China’s State and private enterprises to invest in Brazil, especially in the field of logistics facilities, including storage and transportation.

“The increasing consumption demand of food from the middle class in China, with a total of around 30 million people by 2015, will create opportunities for Brazil to cooperate with China in the field of food. We can supply more dairy products, meat products and other high-value added agriculture and livestock products,” said Senator Katia Abreu, president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock.

Apart from boosting trade with China and expanding the regional market via its Beijing office, CNA also aims to close the ties between Brazilian suppliers and Chinese importers and promote bilateral trade.

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In the Spotlight: How will commitments to the environment affect U.S.-Brazilian relations?

Compiled by Elizabeth Sweitzer – Brazil Institute, 6/27/2012

Photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust

The outcome of last week’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development foreshadowed the need for continued international cooperation concerning the environment, while also pointing to the economic implications of sustainable development. While the Conference’s outcome was met with mixed feelings, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered optimistic remarks on various international achievements while signaling to the U.S.’s most pertinent environmental initiatives. In her speech on June 22,  Clinton urged nations to develop partnerships with private-sector industries, announced various U.S. initiatives to fund sustainable projects in developing nations as well as Brazil, and addressed promotion of women’s rights as integral aspects of sustainable development.  Importantly for U.S.-Brazil relations, the speech also elucidated the nations’ joint commitments to urban sustainability projects and forest conservation.

Despite the U.S.’s assurance that their efforts will curb deforestation, the status of the Forest Code bill remains contentious in Brazil. The original Forest Code which dates back to 1965 is admittedly a very controversial document; it both sets protections on the forest while giving agribusiness sectors access to logging in order to farm. As a result, Brazil faced the blame for erosion of the world’s rainforest in some of its most vulnerable regions, including riverbanks and areas of incredible biodiversity. It was precisely these incidences which prompted the most recent revision of the forest code in 2012. Although President Dilma Rousseff vetoed parts of the proposed bill, many environmental activists still argue that the bill needs to be vetoed in its entirety.

The twelve most controversial sections, including a decree that would give amnesty to illegal deforestation prior to 2008, were amongst those sections vetoed. Ruralistas, farmers who grow on cleared land in the Amazon, argue that they need to Forest Code to maintain an income and support Brazil’s booming agribusiness sector. Various economists also suggest that keeping the bill will be necessary in order to avoid a harsh rise in food prices and economic turmoil. Other environmental activists contend that enough arid land already exists, and that Brazil could gain fiscal benefits from the international carbon market through forest preservation, especially considering the fact the rainforest absorbs some 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

The government now has until September 25, 2012 to revise the forest code. Nevertheless, this debate remains entrenched in whether or not President Rousseff’s congressional support will be erased in the event she does ultimately veto the Forest Code. While she currently enjoys popular support for keeping Brazilian unemployment at a historic low, her efforts to promote social equality could be tested by the fact that ruralistas and the entire Brazilian agribusiness sector will be directly affected by a veto.

Even in the event the Forest Code is ultimately vetoed, Brazil faces another indirect factor. If the U.S.’s economic position changes, increased deforestation may occur due to renewed demand for commodities from the Amazon. Indeed, while the U.S. has recently experienced a weakened demand for corn and ethanol fuel from Brazil, Obama has been increasingly eyeing Brazil’s oil resources whilst Brazil cannot yet confirm its ability to supply the amount of oil the U.S. would need.

Brazilian agriculture: The miracle of the cerrado

The Economist, 08/27/2010

IN A remote corner of Bahia state, in north-eastern Brazil, a vast new farm is springing out of the dry bush. Thirty years ago eucalyptus and pine were planted in this part of the cerrado (Brazil’s savannah). Native shrubs later reclaimed some of it. Now every field tells the story of a transformation. Some have been cut to a litter of tree stumps and scrub; on others, charcoal-makers have moved in to reduce the rootballs to fuel; next, other fields have been levelled and prepared with lime and fertiliser; and some have already been turned into white oceans of cotton. Next season this farm at Jatobá will plant and harvest cotton, soyabeans and maize on 24,000 hectares, 200 times the size of an average farm in Iowa. It will transform a poverty-stricken part of Brazil’s backlands.

Three hundred miles north, in the state of Piauí, the transformation is already complete. Three years ago the Cremaq farm was a failed experiment in growing cashews. Its barns were falling down and the scrub was reasserting its grip. Now the farm—which, like Jatobá, is owned by BrasilAgro, a company that buys and modernises neglected fields—uses radio transmitters to keep track of the weather; runs SAP software; employs 300 people under a gaúcho from southern Brazil; has 200km (124 miles) of new roads criss-crossing the fields; and, at harvest time, resounds to the thunder of lorries which, day and night, carry maize and soya to distant ports. That all this is happening in Piauí—the Timbuktu of Brazil, a remote, somewhat lawless area where the nearest health clinic is half a day’s journey away and most people live off state welfare payments—is nothing short of miraculous.

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