“Fascist and rightist”. Those were the two words that former President Lula used to summarize a universe that brings together 20 million Brazilians, moves R$ 3 trillion a year and feeds more than 800 million people in about 200 countries. The statement, given during the PT presidential candidate’s Saturday in Jornal Nacional, can have two explanations: bad faith or complete ignorance of one of the sectors that most move the country’s economy.
“Lula is not naive, much less was he off guard,” says Christian Lohbauer , president of CropLife Brasil, an association of crop protection companies. “Since he knows that a good part of the agribusiness public does not belong to him, he repeats the phrases that he thinks can win over urban voters.”
In the same interview, the former president repeated another of the great myths surrounding Brazilian agribusiness: “Our fight against deforestation makes them against us”. In fact, agribusiness in Brazil is highly sustainable and the big bet to ensure food security in a world that should exceed 8 billion inhabitants this year.
Rural producers are truly responsible for environmental preservation. Today, of the approximately 565 million hectares covered by native forests (two thirds of the country), more than 280 million hectares are within farms, small farms and other rural properties, distributed in riparian forests and permanent preservation areas . Responsibility for these reservations, including costs, rests with the owners.
“Calling Brazilian agribusiness fascist denotes profound ignorance,” said Antônio Cabrera, Minister of Agriculture between 1990 and 1992. “Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator who first implemented this system, said: ‘Everything in the State, nothing against the State, and nothing out of state’. This is the opposite of what agribusiness is, a sector that works essentially in a market economy, not in a planned economy. The sector is increasingly seeking to highlight its sustainability, given that we preserve more than 65% of our native forests.”
Preserve costs money
Ricardo Arioli Silva, president of the National Commission for Cereals, Fibers and Oilseeds of the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), recalls that environmental legislation applies to all landowners, regardless of the size of the land. “Producers are leaving a legacy for future generations, which are the permanent preservation areas inside the properties”, he says.
In partnership with his brother Rogério, Ricardo has plantations and raises cattle on almost 3,000 hectares in Mato Grosso. He calculates that the family has R$ 8 million invested in areas dedicated to preservation within their lands alone.
According to the Forest Code, Brazilian rural producers need to preserve from 20% to 80% of the property, depending on the region of the country where it is located — the average is 50%. According to Embrapa Territorial, the personal and land assets of producers immobilized for the benefit of the environment is around R$ 3.5 trillion. Only with the maintenance and conservation of these lands, approximately R$ 15 billion are spent per year, paid out of pocket, on firebreaks, fences, surveillance services, planting, etc.
here’s the truth
“Lula made a totally wrong statement,” said Normando Corral, president of the Federation of Agriculture and Livestock of the State of Mato Grosso. “Fascism is a dictatorial system. I had never seen the producer referred to in that way. In the heat of the electoral dispute, which this year is very radical, he made an untrue and inconsequential accusation. This speech demonstrates a huge lack of knowledge of what happens in agriculture.”
The truth unspoken by Lula is that environmental degradation is not caused by those who live off the land. Environmental preservation and high productivity rates go hand in hand. One of the examples is the Crop-Forest-Livestock Integration technique, which is spreading throughout the national territory. This type of management intersperses agriculture, planted forests and cattle raising in the same space, which regenerates the soil and improves the quality of production.
When learning about this type of management, in 2021, the Englishman Alok Sharma, who chaired the United Nations Climate Change Conference that year, said that the world needs this innovation. “I’m talking here about Embrapa Cerrados, outside Brasilia, where innovative and low-carbon technologies are helping to increase Brazilian agricultural productivity by avoiding harmful deforestation and creating green jobs for Brazilians,” he said, in a video posted on Twitter. .
Feeding without exclusion
In practice, 8% of the national territory is used for agriculture and 21% for livestock. With that slice, Brazilian agribusiness is able to feed the country’s population and still have enough to send food to the rest of the world. “The presidential candidates could use the campaign to show how fundamental agribusiness is for the world”, believes Lohbauer . “We need to raise other issues. Over the last 40 years, for example, the price of the basic food basket has fallen by an average of 5% per year thanks to increased productivity.”
The clientele is multiethnic and multinational. The country’s crop spreads across all continents of the globe. It even reaches the kitchen of the Brazilian mission in Antarctica. Thanks to the sector, Jews in Israel, Muslims in Palestine, Buddhists in Japan, Protestants in the United States, Catholics in Italy, Hindus in India, etc., were fed. There was also no political distinction, since the Communist Party of China needs Brazil’s harvest for the Chinese not to starve. Even the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Argentina did not see the “fascism” that Lula saw in the Brazilian food that reached them: 2.5 million tons, adding the three.
As shown by data from the Ministry of Economy, the volume sent by the sector to the rest of the globe last year reached 206 million tons. A little less than that was used to feed the more than 210 million Brazilians.
Virtuous cycle in Brazil
The most recent survey by the National Supply Company records that the internal market should consume 140 million tons of grains and 20 million tons of meat this year. These amounts are equivalent to 55% and 70% of the respective national productions of these segments. In addition, local and international populations were supplied with cosmetics, fuels and green energy generated thanks to raw materials and inputs produced on the country’s farms.
This virtuous cycle was responsible for almost 30% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2021, which is equivalent to approximately BRL 3 trillion. This production chain currently employs 20% of the workforce employed in the country, regardless of color, gender, religion or social status.
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