Agriculture and farming in Brazil main information
Agriculture is one of the main pillars for the Brazilian economy: 25% of the GDP over the past two decades was made up by agriculture and animal husbandry. Furthermore Brazil is among the world’s leaders in the production of soybeans, poultry, beef, cotton, corn, and orange juice, being the third biggest exporter of agro-food products after the European Union and the United States. Two-thirds of the total value of agricultural production are crop products, and one-third livestock products. The main product in Brazilian exports is soybeans (grain, meal, and oil), which represent almost 50% of the agro-food exports. About 12% of the world´s species are found in Brazil, making it the most biodiverse country on Earth.
Arable land accounts for 23% of Brazilian agricultural land. Below estimated statistics regarding land use (2016 by FAO):
- Agriculture area 236159 (1000Ha)
- Forest area 502082 (1000Ha)
There are two main agricultural areas to the country:
This makes up close to two-thirds of the country and is characterised by a semi-temperate, or moderate, climate. The south of the country is known for its dark red, highly fertile soils. These soils have good soil structure but are also highly acidic. Some of the most productive agricultural land is in the state of Paraná, followed by Sao Paulo. Land in Paraná is so productive that despite accounting for just 2% of Brazilian soya area, the region produces around 20% of the country’s soya beans.
Northeast Brazil (including the Amazon Basin)
This agricultural area is far drier and less equipped. It often succumbs to droughts, and lacks infrastructure, capital and good soil, due to minimal rainfall. This area is occupied mainly by subsistence farmers (who survive off of their produce). However, there are certain crops from this region that are essential for export; such as cocoa, tropical fruits and forest products.
Brazil is well known for its major river Amazon. Amazon hydrographic basin covers about 6 million km2 and is considered the largest river network in the world. It is navigable along 20,000 km of waterways and has a total watershed area of about 7.3 million km2. This network includes muddy-water rivers that originate in alluvial soil regions. The rivers deposit organic and inorganic sediments along their paths, forming floodplains locally called várzeas. These floodplains are rich in nutrients and organic matter and have a high potential for agricultural development.
The vegetation that covers the Amazon is related to climatic conditions but rain forests are the predominant ecosystem. The main types of vegetation are dense upland forests, open upland forests, savannah-type vegetation that includes well- and poorly drained savannahs, and alluvial floodplain (várzea) vegetation.
Agribusiness accounted for 21.4% of Brazil's GDP and 19.5% of its jobs in 2020. According to data from the World Bank, the GDP grew 9.11% over the past 40 years, with an average annual growth rate of nearly 5% since 1995. GDP growth has contributed to poverty and hunger reduction and improved quality of life for Brazilians. Agricultural exports positively impact Brazil's trade balance, offsetting deficits in other economic sectors and providing an influx of foreign currency (OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook, 2015). Additionally, the agricultural boom has a positive effect on farming and livestock land prices. Prices typically increase in times of favorable food commodity prices and remain stable during lower commodity price periods.
Soybean is one of the most important crops in Brazilian agriculture, comprising more than a third of the sector’s production value in 2019. In the global scenario, Brazil surpassed the U.S. to become the largest producer of this oilseed. According to forecasts, soybean production in Brazil is set to keep increasing in the next decade, reaching more than 140 million tons by 2029. Despite intervals of continual decrease in sugar cane production in recent years, the crop remains one of the main agricultural products in Brazil in terms of output value. In addition to its importance for sugar production, sugar cane is also used as the main feedstock for ethanol fuel production in the country. With the Brazilian biofuels industry experiencing a sustained growth since the 2000s, sugar cane has become a particularly strategic crop among the wide variety of agricultural commodities the country provides to the world.
Aside from meat and sugarcane, Brazil is also well known for its fruit production. There are more than 50 native species of fruit in Brazil – including acai berries, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit and oranges. Fruit production in Brazil ranges from the northern to southern regions of the country and boasts a wide diversity of species and varieties.
Brazil is the number one producer of orange juice. Nearly 35% of the world’s total orange production and half of the orange juice production are concentrated in Brazil, which made Brazil world leader in the production of oranges. The most common importing countries from Brazil are the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. The state of São Paulo is the largest producer in Brazil. The orange juice concentrate industry accounts for approximately 70% of the total volume produced and the remaining 30% is consumed by the domestic market in the form of fresh fruit and also in the form of fresh juice. Exports of fresh oranges still take place at modest volumes that are well below the sector's potential. It supplies the international market, primarily for consumers that consume fresh juice and not concentrate. Orange farming is also responsible for the income of thousands of small-scale Brazilian producers who survive on fruit cultivation and is one of the most significant production chains from an economic point of view in the production of national fruits. Citrus farming provides 687,000 direct and indirect jobs in Brazil with an annual salary mass of USD$ 125 million.
The total avocado production area in Brazil is 15.3,00 hectares, distributed over 4.400 properties with an average area and average productivity of 15.9 tons per hectare. Avocado production in Brazil generates approximately 21,000 direct jobs in the fields of fruit production.
Brazil farms around 500,000 hectares of bananas, yielding a total production of 7.3 million tons and plantations throughout the country. Brazil was the world's fourth-largest fruit producer in 2019, behind India (1st) with 30.8, China (2nd) with 23.75 and Indonesia (3rd) with 9.61. Although it is produced throughout the country, there are some production hubs with a concentrated area and a distinct technology that produce and distribute the fruit to the most prominent urban regions such as capitals and large cities in the States.
Brazil produces around 1.5 million tons of limes (IBGE) and 90% of that volume, or 1.4 million tons, is the Persian variety. Of the total volume produced, 105,000 tons were designated for the international market and the difference was sold on the domestic market. The harvested area covers 56,500 hectares and is predominantly located in the Southeast region of the country. Europe is the primary destination for lime exports, and the key points of entry for products are in the Netherlands through the Port of Rotterdam and in the United Kingdom, another area that has a high consumption of the fruit outside Brazil.
Boasting a harvested area of 27,600 hectares, with a production volume of approximately 1.2 million tons and average productivity of 42.2 tons per hectare, papaya is one of the leading fruits consumed by Brazilians and is included on the export list from Brazil, although at more modest levels than the fruit's potential in the international market.
Mango farming has historically been carried out extensively in Brazil. It is common to see crops in sparse areas in the backyards and valley floors of small rural properties, forming sub-spontaneous forests, and traditionally groan in diverse locations. The estimated mango planted area in Brazil today is at 67,000 hectares, producing approximately 1.4 million tons of fruit and with average productivity of 21.0 tons per hectare. Mango production in Brazil generates 126.900 direct jobs and can be found on 14,000 properties spread across the country. There are two major production areas in the Northeast: the Meso-region of South-Central Bahia where the Municipality of Livramento do Brumado is located, and the Submédio do Vale do São Francisco, where the municipalities of Petrolina in Pernambuco, and Juazeiro in Bahia, are located.
Brazil grows an area of approximately 22,100 hectares of melon that produces around 587,700 tons of fruit. The average Productivity is 26.6ton/ha/year. . The combination of trade in the domestic and foreign markets has made melon farming profitable in the most relevant fruit production centers. Unlike other fruit species, melons are mainly grown in medium and large rural properties, as the scale of production is essential for competitiveness in this segment. The most important period for production is from the end of the rainfall season in the Northeast of Brazil, which is the second half of the year Rainfall is disastrous for the quality of the melon and producers seek to dilute the agricultural risk by planting in semi-arid regions and outside the rainy season.
One of the best-known dietary consumer trends – acai berries – also is native to Brazil’s Amazon region. Brazil produces 35% of the world’s coffee and 25% of global coffee exports – number one in the world.
Brazil is one of the largest vegetable-producing countries, globally. Technological advancements, increasing population levels, strong economic growth, good availability of vegetable products, expanding local production and high arable land is augmenting the Brazilian vegetable market’s growth. In 2019, the total vegetable production in Brazil was 8.85 million metric ton. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, peas, capsicum, mustard, and carrots are some of the major vegetables grown in Brazil. Additionally, organic vegetables that are free from residue are also grown in the country.
The vegetable production in Brazil is a nationwide activity, present throughout the entire national territory. In 2020, the planted area was of 701,221 hectares, a reduction of 8.0% compared to 2019, when there were 762,197 hectares of planted area registered.
The production of lettuce crops is usually located in the vicinity of large cities and on the outskirts of many Brazilian municipalities. Lettuce is one of the products that needs to maintain its image of high freshness, requiring very efficient logistics, and that is the reason many production centers are located close to cities. In 2020 the total area of lettuce production will be around 69,244 ha, producing 1,503,514 tons.
In 2020, the national production of garlic reached 186,320 tons; expectation for 2021 is to reach 224,000 tons. Average productivity is 13.6 t/ha. In some regions, production has already exceeded 19 ton/ha. In 2020, the State of Minas Gerais represented 40.1% of all production areas, the State of Goiás represented 21.8%, the State of Santa Catarina represented 14.6%, the State of Rio Grande do Sul represented 14.6%, and other states, 8.8%.
The production of potatoes is made in all regions of Brazil, being one of the most important crops in horticulture. In 2019 the harvested area was of 116,682 ha, resulting in 3,696,930 tons of garlic and in a productivity of 634 bags/ha, that is, 31,684 kg/ha. The estimated production for 2020 was of 116,015 ha, with an average productivity of 652 bags/ha, that is, a production of 32,600 kg/ha, reaching a production of 3,782 thousand tons.
Onions are among the main vegetables produced in Brazil in 2020, with annual production of 1,617,914 tons in an area of 45,804 ha, with an average productivity of 35.3 t/ha. IBGE’s census, in 2017, lists 54,772 properties registered in the activity of onion production in the country. The onion culture is intensive-labor, employing, in average, 3.5 people/ha. The South region is the main production region in Brazil, and the production there is predominantly a family production, with a low level of mechanization.
The country is also the world’s biggest producer and exporter of chicken and beef. While not yet in the top two or three for pork, it’s expected this will be a big area of growth for the country. Cattle farming remains one of this country’s key industries, since Brazil produces millions of tonnes of beef every year. Cattle farming occurs mainly in Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and Minas Gerais.
Livestock farming is also one of the chief segments in Brazil’s agricultural sector. With meat products ranking only behind soybean in terms of agribusiness export value, production needs to keep up with market demands. The number of slaughtered cattle in Brazil has been continuously increasing in recent years, surpassing 32 million heads in 2019. However, the largest livestock segment in Brazil is by far poultry. In 2019, nearly six billion broiler chickens were slaughtered in the country – a number equivalent to 75 percent of the global human population.
Brazil, unlike most Latin American countries, has increased agricultural production by greatly enlarging its cultivated area since World War II, but this expansion has come at grave environmental cost in frontier areas. Between 2010 and 2015, Brazil deforested an area of 9.840 km² (equal to the size of Puerto Rico, and 50% more than the second largest deforester, Indonesia) and when looking even further back into history, since 1985 Brazil alone has lost an area of more or less 263.000 km² (the size of New Zealand).
The South and Southeast account for the majority of Brazil’s timber production, about half of it from plantations of eucalyptus trees introduced from Australia; Honduras pine and several other exotic species are also harvested. The timber from plantations is used mainly to manufacture cellulose and paper products. Each year, Brazilians burn vast tracts of rainforest and wooded parts of the highlands to make room for pastures, crops, and settlements; however, few of the trees destroyed in that process are used for fuel, and almost none are used for wood products. Most of the small timber yield of the Northeast is used as fuelwood. The forests of eastern Minas Gerais produce the largest share of Brazil’s charcoal, followed by those of western Maranhão, southern Bahia, and Tocantins.
Brazil catches significantly less fish than does Argentina or Mexico, although most of Brazil’s population lives on or near the country’s extensive Atlantic coastline. Brazil’s commercial fishing fleets account for roughly two-thirds of the saltwater catch. They sail mainly from Southern and Southeastern ports, partly because of their proximity to markets but also because the coastal waters are warmed by the southward-flowing Brazil Current, which supports fewer fish than do the colder waters farther south. Most ocean fishing in the Northeast focuses on lobsters and shrimps, which are caught primarily for export. Roughly one-fourth of Brazil’s total catch is freshwater fish, of which a major portion comes from the Amazon River system. The Northeast accounts for another large segment, much of it from reservoirs that the government has stocked with tilapia, a fast-growing fish introduced from Africa. In Fortaleza manufacturers use the skins of tilapia and cambulu, a saltwater fish, to make fashionable shoes, clothing, and accessories—products formerly made from the hides of alligators, which are now endangered.
Some big food companies in Brazil are; JBS S.A., BRF S.A., Ambev S.A., Marfrig Global Foods S.A., Bunge Alimentos S.A., and Cargill Agricola S.A. These companies produce mainly animal proteins and processed foods.