Brazil: The World’s 21st Century Breadbasket

Brazil has for centuries been known as a leading producer and exporter of the world’s breakfast foods – orange juice, coffee, sugar and cocoa.

But over the past 2-1/2 decades since the opening of the economy to foreign investment, Latin America’s largest economy has also become a leading producer of important grains and meats, through investments in technology and land.

Here is a list of most of Brazil’s main agricultural products and exports:

Sugar:As the world’s largest producer and exporter of the sweetener, it’s expected to produce a record 40.9 million tonnes of sugar from cane this season and dominate half the world’s sugar market.

Coffee:As the world’s largest producer and exporter, it produces between 35 million and 55 million 60-kg bags of coffee annually, mostly arabica. It controls about 30 per cent of the international market in the bean.

Orange juice:As the world’s largest producer and exporter of orange juice, it accounts for roughly one in every two glasses of orange juice consumed in the world today.

Beef:Brazil has the world’s largest commercial cattle herd of around 200 million head. Although it consumes about 80 per cent of its beef at home, Brazil still managed to become the largest exporter of beef. It produces mostly Indicus breeds like the Zebu and Nelore which are best suited for tropical climates and most of the herd is grass fed.

Poultry:With a fast-expanding grain belt, Brazil has leveraged its corn and soy production to become the world’s largest exporter of poultry meat and a fast-growing exporter of pork. Feed accounts for about 70 per cent of pork and poultry production costs.

Soybeans:After the creation of commercial soybean varieties suitable for its tropical growing seasons in the 1970s, Brazil soon after vaulted into the world’s No. 2 soybean producer and exporter and one day will likely overtake the United States as the leading producer of the oilseed.

Corn:Until recently it has been only a marginal corn exporter, keeping 95 per cent of the 55 million tonnes-plus of corn produced at home to feed its booming pork and poultry industries. But in the past several years, Brazil has exported around seven million to 11 million tonnes a year, making it the No. 3 world exporter of the grain.

Cocoa:Brazil ranks sixth among the world’s cocoa growers but was No. 2 only a few decades ago until witch’s broom disease devastated its plantations, slashing output by more than half.

Timber:With abundant rain, sun and land inside the tropics, Brazil – as with most of the above crops – is the world’s lowest-cost producer of pulp from timber. Eucalyptus trees have a growing cycle of approximately seven years, compared with 10 to 12 years in Chile and 25 years in North America and Europe.

Cotton:Brazil was only a marginal producer of cotton but burst into prominence this year jumping into the No. 4 slot of world exporters of the fibre. This comes on the heels of winning an international trade dispute at the World Trade Organization against U.S. subsidies. Brazil produces close to two million tonnes of high-grade long-fibre cotton lint.

Tobacco:Brazil is the world’s largest producer of tobacco, cultivation of which is concentrated in the southern growing states.

Ethanol:Brazil is typically the world’s largest exporter of cane-based ethanol, shipping around three billion litres a year. This pales in comparison with the 28 billion litres that it produces annually for the domestic flex-fuel car fleet.

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