Tractors Moving Faster In Brazil With Cheap Loans

Farm machinery sales in Brazil should recover in 2010 from a crisis-driven slump, as producers take advantage of state-subsidized loans to renew equipment or mechanize for the first time.

The government of the South American agricultural powerhouse introduced subsidized loans for the purchase of machines like tractors and harvesters in an effort to staunch an economic slowdown from which Brazil soon bounced back.

The measure, known locally as the PSI, has been extended until the end of this year and the Brazilian Association for the Machinery and Equipment Industry (Abimaq) expects sales to rise about 30 per cent in 2010 after the previous year’s dip.

Loans will continue until the end of June at 4.5 per cent per year and increase to 5.5 per cent for the second half of the year. The central bank’s benchmark interest rate is currently much higher at 8.75 per cent.

“With costs and interest rates like this, the farmer can buy machinery, because everyone wants to increase his productivity,” said Paulo Beraldi, sales director at Valtra, the No. 2 tractor brand in Brazil.

Japan Works To Contain Foot-And-Mouth Outbreak

Local residents and officials in southern Japan were working May 10 to contain a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has led the government to suspend the country’s meagre exports of beef and pork.

The infected area remains limited to a radius of 10 kilometres, but the number of cows and pigs affected is rising at a record pace, government and prefectural officials said.

Japan suspended beef exports on April 20 after three cows were suspected of being infected in Miyazaki Prefecture in southern Japan, the first cases since 2000.

The disease has since spread to pigs, exports of which have also been suspended.

The number of suspected cases totals about 64,300, mostly pigs. It is the first Japanese case involving pigs, but the virus is common in both cows and pigs, a Miyazaki prefecture official said.

Since the first cases were found in mid-April, 300 to 400 local residents and officials have been working daily to help dispose of cattle affected and disinfect facilities, but the rise in the number of cases is stretching local efforts to their limits, municipal officials said.

Since the start of the month, about 100 members of the Self Defense Forces have been deployed to help with burying feed and other material used for the virus-infected livestock, another prefecture official said.

The only active measure the local government can currently take is to call for thorough disinfection by farmers and residents in the areas, while the government investigates the cause and identifies the routes of the virus, he said.

China Traders Skeptical Of Corn Import Boom

Agricultural markets are abuzz with speculation about Chinese corn imports, after China bought U. S. corn for the first time in four years, with signs that a lower harvest may not be enough to meet growing demand.

But the talk may be premature: after the U. S. Department of Agriculture said China had bought two cargoes last week, nobody is admitting to buying any more. Even the 115,000 tonnes bought so far may face obstacles getting to market.

“We will wait and see how the two cargoes get through customs. Right now, our management thinks it is still too risky to import genetically modified corn,” said one trading manager with a major feed mill in Guangdong in south China.

China is the second-largest consumer of corn but has not been seen on the international market since 2007, when it exported almost five million tonnes.

But a poor harvest last year and talk of thin supplies in the next three months has buoyed up traders’ hopes of rising Chinese prices, which could warm up interest in imports.

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