Soy Monoculture Deeply Divides a City in Brazil

The municipality of Lucas do Rio Verde, located 280 kilometers north of the Mato Grosso state capital, Cuiabá, has a complete urban infrastructure, even though it has existed as a separate municipality for only 16 years.

It currently profits from the monocultural production of soybeans, which have transformed it into the second largest producer of grains in Brazil.

Nevertheless, after an environmental disaster in March, when the city was sprayed with pesticides, the agribusiness environmental model divides opinions among large landowners, the mayor, and small farmers.

Lucas do Rio Verde has 25,000 inhabitants and one of the highest demographic growth rates in the country. Its population is growing around 12% annually.

Although the United Nations (UN) considers it the third best municipality in which to live in the state, small farmers criticize the soybean monoculture model, because it tends to concentrate income.

"This is a model that cannot be sustained in the long run. When the price of soybeans was US$ 21.42 (45 reais) a sack, as it was in 2004, the crop advanced upon the Amazon, cutting down the forest and concentrating landholding even more. The landowners said that agribusiness was the solution for Brazil.

"Now, with the soy price at US$ 7.14 (15 reais), they are wailing and want the nation to foot the bill, by having the government defer their debts," affirms the president of the Lucas do Rio Verde Truck Farmers’ Association, Celito Trevisan.

The Radiobras reporting crew tried to contact three large soybean producers in the region to get their comments on the use of pesticide sprays and the regional development model, but none of them wanted to be interviewed.

The local mayor, Marino José Franz, affirms that his administration is dedicated to "making changes" in the current model. In his view, what is needed is to deepen agribusiness even more.

The solution for the dependency of the local economy, according to Franz, lies in the "verticalization" of production. That is, instead of the exporting soybeans, corn, and rice from the municipality, he wants to attract industries that transform these grains into oil, animal feed, and other derived products, adding value to what is produced.

That is also why Franz laments that the municipality is still experiencing problems in getting its products to market, since the only means of access is the BR-163 highway, which links Cuiabá to Santarém (PA). The highway is in bad shape.

He indicates the solution on a map published by the city government. "Our way out is by rail. A spur of the North-South railway could transport our products to the Port of Itaqui in Maranhão," the mayor insists.

As a soybean exporter himself, he argues that if the municipality is able to resolve the logistics problem, the industries he wants will set up factories in town.

The president of the Lucas do Rio Verde Rural Workers’ Syndicate, Nilffo Vandcheer, on the other hand, claims that the solution lies in the diversification of production in the municipality and the strengthening of family farming and the cultivation of organic products.

In his view, agribusiness creates few jobs, concentrates income in the hands of large landowners, and ravages the environment through the intensive application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and heavy equipment that compacts the soil, preventing water from filtering down and causing erosion.

"Agribusiness has already destroyed the municipality’s forests, has eliminated the diversity of plant and animal species in the region, has contaminated the rivers and lakes, and is presently even jeopardizing the health and quality of life of the residents," he commented, referring to the use of pesticide sprays..

Agência Brasil

Tags:

Ads

You May Also Like

Brazil Opposition Accuses Lula of Buying Votes and Calls for Foreign Observers

Brazilian President’s statement during a political rally that "democracy is not only clean stuff" ...

New ‘Teams’ of Brazilians in Formula Indy

From 2001 through 2003 Brazilians Hélio ('Spiderman') Castroneves and Gil de Ferran constituted the ...

Brazil and Canada to Discuss Haiti in Argentina

The Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, will meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula ...

Brazil Becomes World’s Number 1 Country for Adventure Tourists

In the tropics, Brazil occupies an area of 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million ...

RAPIDINHAS

There is a sad note about both works reviewed. The artists in them are ...

License to Kill

With the appointment by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Mr. Luiz Eduardo ...

Why Can Brazil Play with Nukes While Iran Can’t?

Washington, intent on wooing Brasília, is prepared to look the other way on the ...

One Killed, Dozens Mugged, It’s Tourist-Hunting Season in Rio, Brazil

Rio robbers have been terrorizing foreign tourists more than ever. Nobody seems able to ...

Kyocera Becomes First Company to Sponsor Stadium in Brazil

Kyocera Mita America, one of the world’s leading document imaging companies, and Clube Atlético ...

Brazil Gets UN Accolades for Its Refugee Legislation and Work

Around 3,000 refugees, from 54 different countries, are currently living in Brazil. The country ...