Want Cheap Ethanol? Go Make It in Brazil

Sugarcane cutter in Brazil During the panel on energy security, on the first day of the International Conference on Biofuels, a sector representative asked the debaters why the United States continue to overtax ethanol imported from Brazil. The American Paul Roberts, a specialist in energy and food and the author of books on these topics, gave a pragmatic answer.

The ethanol industry of the United States, he explained, is currently unable to compete in the international market, because it is not as efficient as that of Brazil. "The tropical countries have a competitive advantage," he said.

Attentive to the matter, the joint executive director at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Richard Jones, advised that care must be taken when dealing with the issue. According to him, there is an apparent conflict in the discourse that calls for the formation of a group of producer countries that will ensure the supply of ethanol to the international market and the condition of competitors among these countries themselves.

The president at Petrobras' biofuels subsidiary, Alan Kardec Pinto, gave a suggestion: foreign companies should invest in ethanol production in Brazil, thus ensuring the supply of markets in a competitive and profitable manner.

Card

A product turned specifically to micro, small and medium sized businesses, the Card of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES Card) achieved in October its best performance since it started operating, in 2003. For the first time, transactions in a single month exceeded 100 million reais (US$ 43.4 million). The figure, of 110 million reais (US$ 47.8 million), is 20% higher than recorded in September.

Also compared with the previous month, the number of operations grew 12%, having totaled 7,195 (in the accumulated result this year, there were over 50,000 so far). Average transactions per day, in turn, have grown 18%, totaling over 4.8 million reais (US$ 2 million) per business day. By the same token, licensing requests by new manufacturers (385) and distributors (353) were also record highs, representing growth of 14% and 70%, respectively.

According to projections based on the figures available so far, the BNDES Card should close the year of 2008 with total transactions worth 820 million reais (US$ 356.4 million), more than the initial estimate, of 750 million reais (US$ 326.1 million), and presenting growth of approximately 60% in comparison with 2007.

SOS Caribbean

The National Food Supply Company (Conab) is shipping the first load of food for humanitarian aid to the countries in the Caribbean. The shipment includes 600 tons of processed rice, out of the Brazilian government's regular stocks, and 900 tons of powdered milk, of the Program for Acquisition of Family Farming Agriculture (PAA).

The initiative complies with provisory measure 444/08, which authorizes the donation of 47,000 tons of food to the governments of Cuba, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica, to supply the populations affected by recent climate problems.

According to the superintendent at Conab in Rio Grande do Sul, Carlos Manoel Farias, shipments should include 500 kilograms of vegetable seeds. "Conab coordinated the entire action, commanded by the ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Relations and Agrarian Development, in partnership with the government of Spain, which is going to make viable the transport of other products," he said.

Cooperatives

A study by the Market management department at the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) reveals that, despite the crisis, direct exports of Brazilian cooperatives registered growth of 27.5% in the accumulated result from January to September 2008, in comparison with the same period in 2007.

Sector sales to the foreign market totaled US$ 3.13 billion, whereas in the previous year they had totaled US$ 2.46 billion. The volume exported, in turn, dropped to 5.63 million tons, against 6.48 million tons in 2007.

The sector trade balance presented a surplus of US$ 2.71 billion, with growth of 20.46% over the months of January to September of the previous year. In the same period, Brazilian cooperatives imported US$ 419.49 million. The result is a consequence, mainly, of trade of products in the soy complex, in the sugar and alcohol sector and in the beef sector.

The OCB study shows that the main destination for products of Brazilian cooperatives was China, which represented 12% of total exports, for a total of US$ 377.21 million. In the same period, in 2007, the total was 10.58% of sales, for a value of US$ 259.96 million.

The increases in exports to China was due to sales of products in the soy complex, with special attention to soy in grain (24.29%) and soy oil (335.50%), and edible products of animal origin (52.13%).

Them Always Them

Figures supplied by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) show that Europe and the United States invested US$ 3 trillion to save their banks, responsible for the economic crisis that scares the world, but were unable to deploy even a small share of that total for hunger alleviation worldwide.

During that period, according to the Unctad, funds for aiding the development of more impoverished countries were reduced by up to 40%. To the secretary general at the Unctad, Supachai Panitchpadki, aid to developing countries cannot disappear as a consequence of the economic crisis.

Downhill

According to Panitchpadki, the crisis should lead to a 10% reduction in purchases of vehicles, electronic products and textiles in industrialized countries, representing a reduction of US$ 95 billion in exports by developing nations. He believes that the UN must participate in the elaboration of solutions to the economic crisis that plagues the planet.

On the other hand, the International Labour Organization (ILO) guarantees that the current economic instability is going to leave more than 20 million people unemployed, and 40 million in extreme poverty.

Anba

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