Brazil responds to international food demand

The country's role as food provider for the world is growing, elevating agriculture's economic standing

Brazilian production

  • Brazil is the second-largest producer and exporter of soybeans in the world
  • The country is the third-biggest producer and second-largest exporter of corn
  • It is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of coffee and sugar
  • Vegetables, beans and milk are mostly produced on Brazil’s family farms

With its vast landscapes and diverse climates offering opportunities to grow huge varieties of produce, Brazil is one of the most significant players in global food production.

The country is one of the world's largest agricultural producers and exporters, with soybeans, corn, coffee, sugar and cotton accounting for some of its most significant crops.

Agriculture has long been vital to the country’s economy, accounting for about a quarter (23%) of the country’s GDP and employing almost 16% of the population.

However, the sector’s growth in recent years means that its role in increasing global food production and helping feed the world’s growing population is becoming ever more important.

The country’s arable production in particular has increased significantly: in 40 years, grain and fibre production has increased by 325%. According to the UN FAO, in 2013 Brazil produced more than a billion tonnes of crops, including 750 million tonnes of sugar cane, 100 million tonnes of cereals, 83 million tonnes of coarse grains, 81 million tonnes of soya, 37 million tonnes of fruit, 11 million tonnes of vegetables and 3 million tonnes of coffee.

Developments in crop production techniques have played their part, but farmers have also been quick to respond to market signals and increased global demand for produce.

In 2015 alone growers increased production by 8m tonnes, taking advantage of increased prices and the appreciation of the dollar.

Much of this growth was in Brazil’s main crops - soybeans, corn and wheat - but farmers are increasingly responding to demand for cash crops such as tobacco, coffee, onions, oranges and potatoes.

This ability to react to demand across the world has proven incredibly important to Brazil’s economy, particularly during the global economic crisis.

Agriculture has been the only industry sector to grow in recent years, helping to reduce the impact of the economic downturn and lifting exports to such an extent that Brazil reached a surplus in economic trade in 2015.

While much of this increased production has come from the development of large-scale, economic farming practices, the country’s agriculture sector relies heavily on family farms to produce its output - particularly in the fruit and vegetable sectors.

According to the most recent Agricultural Census, family farm’s produce almost 90% of Brazil’s cassava, 70% of the country’s beans, nearly half of its corn and over a third of its rice.

Family farms are similarly important to the livestock sector, producing almost 60% of the country’s milk and pig breeding stock, half of its poultry, and 30% of its cattle.

Ensuring the continued profitability and sustainability of family farms is one of a number of challenges the industry faces in the coming years, as yields are being hit by climate change and many young people are being attracted to jobs outside agriculture.

As part of a global effort to encourage international debate and sharing ideas, groups like the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation are working with Brazil’s agricultural industry to address issues of food security and sustainable use of natural resources.

By sharing best practice, it’s hoped Brazil will continue to drive production, whilst securing its place as one of the world’s most significant and sustainable producers of food.

Brazil Food Demand Wheat
Brazil Food Demand Green Field
Brazil Food Demand Cotton
Brazil Food Demand Corn