In Brazil, Small and Big Farmers Are All in Same Shaky Boat

Brazilian Agribusiness Association congress Agribusiness is the driving force in Brazilian economy, answering to 33% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 42% of exports, and 37% of all job positions in national territory. To discuss the power of the sector and the public policies for its sustainable development, the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (Abag) has recently held the sixth edition of the Brazilian Agribusiness Congress in São Paulo, capital of the southeastern Brazilian state of the same name.

"A new game is now being played. Sustainability is the correct means of production, socially and ecologically speaking, and furthermore it is economically viable," said the president at Abag, Carlo Lovatelli.

According to Lovatelli, sustainability is a vital subject nowadays. So much so that next month will see the establishment of the Institute for Sustainable Agribusiness (Instituto para o Agronegócio Responsável – Ares), and the Abag will promote a special mission to the European Union countries, along with the Brazilian Foreign Office (Itamaraty) and the Brazilian embassies to those countries.

"We need to show how our agribusiness works. To show that sugar cane is not planted in the Amazon, as some international media vehicles have already reported," he said.

The theme of the congress was "Brazil: one single agribusiness". According to Lovatelli, currently the country has four ministries directly concerned with agribusiness: the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the Ministry of Environment, and the Secretariat of Fishery, which has the status of a ministry.

"The federal government should have a central organization to take care of agribusiness. This crazy quilt creates a structure in which the different fields fight amongst themselves, and this has been damaging the sector a lot," stated the president.

Within this framework, according to him, the Brazilian agribusiness is harmed by dichotomies between food- and energy-producing agriculture, or between family and business farmers.

"There is only one single agribusiness, and one single farmer. No dichotomy. What we need to do is provide the conditions for small farmers too to become competitive and grow," he stated.

"We sense that there is a need for strategically linking the different production chains. It takes unity to ensure better conditions for all," he said.

In the assessment of José Serra, governor of the state of São Paulo, there is a myth according to which family agriculture and business agriculture are two different issues.

"It is a single production chain, the problems are the same: precarious infrastructure, lack of logistics, insufficient credit, and unfavorable exchange rates," said Serra.

"The agricultural policy cannot concentrate on exports, or in providing assistance. A wide-ranging agricultural policy must be implemented for a sector as important as agribusiness," claimed the governor in his inaugural speech during the opening of the Brazilian Agricultural Congress.

The appreciation of the real (Brazilian currency) against the dollar is another problem facing the sector. "The Brazilian productivity is greater than those of the United States and Argentina, but farmers harmed by unfavorable exchange rates," Lovatelli explains. To the president of Abag, "luckily, our product is now highly valued in the international market, thus making up for some of the exchange rate disparity."

The secretary of Agricultural Policy at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Edí­lson Guimarães, said that the ministry's guidelines include key points for the Brazilian agribusiness to develop all its potential.

"It is important to provide support to cooperatives, rural insurance, and a disaster fund. Infrastructure and logistics are also priorities, as is the problem of indebtment in the agricultural sector, which is being negotiated with the farmers," said Guimarães.

According to him, other priorities are cost reduction for agricultural financing, tax reduction and tax simplification.

More information at the Website www.abag.com.br

Anba – www.anba.com.br

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