Brazil fact of the day

Agriculture is now a $150-billion-a-year business in Brazil,
accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s exports and
creating what Brazilians call the "green anchor" of their economy.

Already the world’s biggest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar,
coffee and tobacco, according to Agriculture Ministry statistics,
Brazil soon hopes to add soybeans to the list, depending on what
happens in that volatile market.

With a grass-fed herd of 175
million cattle that is the world’s largest, it passed the United States
as the world’s largest exporter of beef last year. During the first
nine months of 2004, sales of Brazilian beef abroad rose 77 percent
over the same period last year, leading the government to predict $2.5
billion in earnings from beef exports this year.

Over all, the
agricultural bonanza, aided in part by mad cow disease in Europe and
avian flu in Asia, is likely to give Brazil a record trade surplus of
over $30 billion.

…Brazil, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described as "an
agricultural superpower" during a visit in October, hopes to pass the
United States as the world’s largest agricultural producer.

Why?

"What’s really driving this revolution is that the Brazilians
discovered how to use tropical and savanna soils that had always been
considered poor," said G. Edward Schuh, director of the Center for
International Economic Policy at the University of Minnesota. "They
learned that with modest applications of lime and phosphorus they can
quadruple and quintuple their yields, not just with soybeans but also
with maize, cotton and other commodities."

In the 1960s, coffee was responsible for 60 percent of Brazil’s exports.  Today it is seventh on the list.

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