Brazil has become an agricultural powerhouse in recent years, but Agriculture Minster Blairo Maggi spoke to Alex Black on how increased productivity has not been at the expense of the environment.
Brazil was looking to continue its production drive as it sought new trade deals with Europe, post-Brexit Britain and around the world.
Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi was keen to emphasise his country’s commitment to sustainability as it continued to increase production.
He was looking at Brexit as an opportunity, although his department had not yet held direct discussions with the UK.
He said: “So we need to talk, this is an opportunity for Brazil. We want to do business.”
In Europe, Mr Maggi said there were still a number of issues to smooth out in the Mercosur deal, but he was optimistic ‘many things were going to work out’.
He said: “In Europe and elsewhere, there is high pressure for governments to not allow imports. In Europe, there is a high subsidy for farmers.”
While he saw Europe as being very protectionist, he believed if Brazilian producers could be competitive, they should be entitled to compete in the European marketplace.
He added there had been progress on geographical protections, but there were still some issues.
He said: “Most farmers in Brazil came from Europe 200 years ago. They brought from Europe the concept of production.
“But, for example, suddenly you have to say to farmers you cannot call their cheese [made to the same standards and with the same processes used in Europe] ‘parmesan’ anymore.
“We think they should be able to use the general term because it is their tradition as well.”
With the trade war currently being waged between the US and China, Mr Maggi said many commentators had been highlighting the potential advantages for Brazil to replace US products headed to China.
He warned he was cautious, because if, after marketing Brazilian soy for the Chinese market, China and the US reached a deal, Brazil would lose the marketplace again.
“I really hope the markets are normal,” he said.
Mr Maggi was looking for Brazil to continue growing its production in a sustainable way following its transformation from net importer in the 1970s to the major global exporter it is today.
This increased production has come predominantly through improving yields dramatically, rather than growing the amount of land used.
He attributed this to better understanding of their tropical soil, not simply trying to export European techniques and technology to Brazil.
Through treating tropical soils, Brazil has made land in the Cerrado region, which was previously thought to be unsuitable for agriculture, productive.
Mr Maggi added technology had played a major role in transforming the industry.
He said: “In the past it was manual work, but now, with the technology, you can work much more. It is limitless.”
He said there was room for Brazil to continue its production drive, without impacting the Amazon rainforest.
Mr Maggi emphasised Brazilian sustainability, with the implementation of a Forest Code in 2013, which aimed to show it was committed to nature preservation alongside productive agriculture.
He said: “This Brazilian legislation makes the landowner have to reserve a percentage of land. For example, in an Amazon region in Brazil, a landowner can only use 20 per cent of his land. The rest it is mandatory to leave it as a reserve.”
He added there was more land which could be utilised for agriculture in Brazil, without impacting on its sustainability drive.
Alex Black visited Brazil with the Brazilian trade and investment promotion agency, Apex-Brasil, to visit the country’s thriving agritech sector.