Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Sugarcane’ tag

Brazil’s Agricultural Miracle?

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There’s no doubt that Brazil has flourished in the agricultural realm in the last several decades, and that its abundance of natural resources are only going to amplify its global importance in the years to come, as the world becomes increasingly resource constrained. The two articles below are typical of The Economist: well researched, well written, and optimistic about the abilities of technology and trade liberalization to continue aiding in Brazil’s, and the world’s, prosperity.

There is much truth to these assertions. Brazil is the world’s largest producer or exporter of beef, coffee, sugar, and oranges, and second only to the U.S. in soy. These are important staple products. Sugarcane ethanol seems to becoming only more attractive to foreign importers such as the U.S. and Europe. If either of these further opens its markets to importation of ethanol, it will have profound impacts on Brazil’s agricultural sector and economy as a whole.

With all of this in mind, there are two downsides that are not discussed in these articles, though they must be considered, both for Brazil’s sake and for others if, as the second article suggests, Brazil’s agricultural model is to be exported to places like Africa.

1. Disparity in wealth and lack of jobs, education, and training for lower-skilled workers. During this agricultural boom, Brazil has continued to suffer from vast disparities in wealth. Mechanization has driven millions of rural poor into the cities as jobs are replaced with tractors.

It is inefficient and simply infeasible to consider reversing this technological progression, but measures must be taken, not necessarily for reasons of altruism, but basic economic realities. Those farm laborers who move to cities like Sao Paulo and Salvador put a strain on public services, crime rates rise, and money spent on police and corrections in the cities can sop up the gains from agricultural exports as that sector innovates. Measures are being taken in Brazil to create more jobs in cities and the countryside, as well as education and training for people who have had far too little of these or the jobs that require them.

2. Biodiversity needs to be protected, and not just in the Amazon. Only about 8% of the Atlantic Rainforest remains, much of its destruction due to expansion of monoculture in states like Sao Paulo, which produces 60% of Brazil’s cane and ethanol. Protection of biodiversity in the cerrado in central Brazil, as well as closer to the coasts, is not a matter of liking flowers and birds, it is essential to the land’s continued productive ability.

Health of soil and water depends on functioning ecosystems, which are difficult to maintain in monocultural systems. Some of the larger cane and ethanol firms, such as Cosan, have done much to re-vegetate stream banks, providing much-needed buffer zones between water resources and agricultural activities. This must continue on all agricultural land as these areas provide continuous threads rather than isolated forests that do not provide the expanse needed for migrating animals essential to healthy soil and water.

It may sound like a stretch, but my doctoral research has shown the interdependency of ecology and economies. The health of each is indeed necessary to continue Brazil’s ability to feed itself and much of the rest of the world.

Please feel free to let me know what you think.

How to feed the world

The emerging conventional wisdom about world farming is gloomy. There is an alternative

Aug 26th 2010

THE world is planting a vigorous new crop: “agro-pessimism”, or fear that mankind will not be able to feed itself except by wrecking the environment. The current harvest of this variety of whine will be a bumper one. Natural disasters—fire in Russia and flood in Pakistan, which are the world’s fifth- and eighth-largest wheat producers respectively—have added a Biblical colouring to an unfolding fear of famine. By 2050 world grain output will have to rise by half and meat production must double to meet demand. And that cannot easily happen because growth in grain yields is flattening out, there is little extra farmland and renewable water is running short.

Read the entire article here.

Brazilian agriculture

The miracle of the cerrado

Brazil has revolutionised its own farms. Can it do the same for others?

Aug 26th 2010 | CREMAQ, PIAUÍ

IN A remote corner of Bahia state, in north-eastern Brazil, a vast new farm is springing out of the dry bush. Thirty years ago eucalyptus and pine were planted in this part of the cerrado (Brazil’s savannah). Native shrubs later reclaimed some of it. Now every field tells the story of a transformation. Some have been cut to a litter of tree stumps and scrub; on others, charcoal-makers have moved in to reduce the rootballs to fuel; next, other fields have been levelled and prepared with lime and fertiliser; and some have already been turned into white oceans of cotton. Next season this farm at Jatobá will plant and harvest cotton, soyabeans and maize on 24,000 hectares, 200 times the size of an average farm in Iowa. It will transform a poverty-stricken part of Brazil’s backlands.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 27th, 2010 at 10:23 am

UNICA: 2009-10 Sugarcane Harvest Ends With 7.32% Growth

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Date Posted: April 13, 2010

Final numbers for the 2009/2010 harvest in the South-Central region of Brazil shows an increase of 7.32% in sugarcane crushing compared to the 2008/2009 harvest.

In all, 541.94 million tons of sugarcane were processed until March 31, 2010.

However, the start of the 2010/2011 harvest, which began officially on April 1st, has moved at a slower pace than expected, with only 6.81 million tons of cane crushed.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 15th, 2010 at 8:36 am

Brazil Sugar Output Will Rise 19 Percent to Record, Unica Says

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March 31, 2010, 9:52 AM EDT

By Lucia Kassai

March 31 (Bloomberg) — Sugar output in Brazil’s Center South, the world’s largest producing region, will rise 19 percent to a record in the coming season as drier weather boosts yields and new mills come online.

Mills in the region, which makes 90 percent of Brazil’s sugar, will produce 34.1 million metric tons of the sweetener in the crop year starting tomorrow, up from 28.6 million a year earlier, Unica said in a report distributed today in Sao Paulo. Sugar-cane output will increase 10 percent to 595.9 million tons, Unica said.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 4th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Brazil seen supplying 10% of global ethanol by 2025

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Friday, March 26, 2010 3:51 AM

(Source: Investnews; Sao Paulo)trackingSAO PAULO, 3/26/10 – Brazil’s sugar cane ethanol might replace between 5% to 10% of the gasoline consumed worldwide by 2025, said Luis Cortez, a professor at the Agricultural Engineering Faculty of Unicamp university. According to Cortez, renewable sources already supply 46% of Brazil’s energy demand (3.5 times more than the global percentage of 13%) and sugar cane accounts for 15% of it. Ethanol production, which has risen from the need to find alternative energy sources after the 1970’s oil crisis, is about to enter a growth cycle, the expert added.

The professor pointed out that despite ethanol’s huge potential, only 0.4% (3.4 million hectares) of Brazilian land is used for sugar cane planting against 22 million hectares used for soybean and 200 million hectares for pastures.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 30th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Brazil Sugar Mills ‘Pray’ for Prices Amid Record Crop Outlook

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March 29, 2010, 11:17 PM EDT

By Lucia Kassai and Katia Cortes

March 30 (Bloomberg) — Brazilian sugar-cane yields are beating expectations as a waning El Nino brings benefiting dry weather to crops in the world’s largest producer, increasing prospects for a record harvest and declining prices.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 30th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Biofuel expansion would send cattle into the rain forest

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Interesting stuff, directly related to my doctoral research, which provides a cost benefit analysis of existing legislation in Brazil that mandates that producers must set aside 25-30% of their land as forest reserves. Setting aside that much land is prohibitive for most producers, and since the laws are not heavily enforced, compliance is very low. My study provides an assessment of exactly how much producers would have to be paid so that they are adequately compensated for revenues lost from leaving or implementing forests alongside sugarcane.

The study discussed in the article below is basically saying that there is not enough land to have food, biofuels, cattle, and forests. There are options, however, that may contradict these findings. Pasture lands can be intensified, requiring half the land for the same number of cattle. Still, it seems that using less energy, and eating lower on the food chain, are also cost effective and feasible methods for dealing with these issues.

Biofuel production in the US has met with fairly mixed success, as the cost and fossil fuel use of corn-based ethanol has severely cut into the benefits provided by avoiding the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a somewhat different story in Brazil, which has embraced ethanol derived from sugarcane and seen more promising results. The government has set aggressive targets for both ethanol and biodiesel production, but a study that will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science later this week urges caution: unless the goals are met through an integrated agricultural strategy, they’ll drive deforestation that will offset most of the benefits.
Read the entire article here, or you can download the study here.

Brazil hopes Shell-Cosan can boost ethanol exports

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Inae Riveras – Analysis
Wed Feb 3, 2010 1:42pm EST

A worker shows a gas tank cover of Fiat flex car on the assembly line at the company's Betim Plant near Belo Horizonte October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Washington Alves

A worker shows a gas tank cover of Fiat flex car on the assembly line at the company’s Betim Plant near Belo Horizonte October 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Washington Alves

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s ethanol industry, which invested heavily to boost output of the cane-based biofuel, is counting on a tie-up between sugar and ethanol producer Cosan and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to revive its prospects after exports fell short of expectations.

The $21-billion-a-year ethanol joint venture announced by the two companies on Monday will enable Cosan, Brazil’s biggest ethanol maker, to move product more efficiently thanks to Shell’s global fuel distribution and retail system.


But whether that happens will depend largely on outside factors: whether oil is costly enough to make ethanol competitive; whether Brazil’s mills can provide a steady stream of biofuel; and whether key markets such as the United States will be more open to ethanol imports.


Some analysts say any growth in ethanol exports will depend on oil prices more than other factor.


Futures markets for ethanol have been incapable of minimizing producers’ risks. Deals are largely done on a spot basis — both in and outside Brazil. This makes it difficult for buyers and sellers to hedge against market volatility.

Read the entire article here.