Sugarcane Production in Brazil

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Sugarcane Production in Brazil describes the cultivation of sugarcane in Brazil, the world's top sugarcane producer.

"Brazil also developed an advanced sugarcane industry to produce sugar and ethanol, producing 20 percent of the world’s sugar and 34 percent of its ethanol in 2005 and accounting for 38 percent of world trade in sugar and 74 percent of world trade in ethanol. In addition to low production cost for sugarcane, the high concentration of sucrose in Brazilian varieties (14 percent) contributes to its competitiveness and has made it one of the lowest-cost global producers."[1]
"Ethanol production based on sugar cane monocultures has resulted in in numerous social and environmental impacts including: provoking a re-organization of land, forcing people off the land, exacerbating conflicts over land, exploiting indigenous labour, and reducing food production, etc."[2]

Production and Expansion

Recent Expansion of Sugarcane in Brazil

"Brazil is the largest world producer of sugarcane, followed by India, Thailand and Australia. The area planted in 2006/2007 was over 7 million hectares, representing an increase of 1,47 million hectares in comparison with 2004/2005 harvest. Over the last three harvest years, cane plantations occupied an area 26,3% larger; presently it occupies 10% of the total farmed areas. It is estimated that in 2015/2016, Brazil’s cane plantations will expand approximately 50%, reaching 12,2 million hectares."[3]

A 2007 report predicted a 44% increase in demand by 2014, resulting in the production of an additional 230 million metric tons of sugarcane (totaling 752 million metric tons), grown on an additional 3.2 million hectares.[4] However, sugarcane production has been expanding at an even faster rate than that.

"The expansion of sugarcane is made easier by a socially and legally unstructured land market, resulting in lower production costs, while at the same time concentrating land ownership in the hands of a few to the detriment of family farming. In this process, the States of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul and also Maranhão, which offer better logistical and export infrastructures and/or are closer to consumer centers, have favorable conditions for new plants, while their traditional agricultural and cattle raising activities are being transferred to lands into the agricultural frontier. All over the country social and environmental impacts are multiplying: increased conflicts over land, exploitation of indigenous peoples as work force and slave work15, decreased production of food crops, displacement of cattle raising activities, increased deforestation and eviction of peasants from their land."[5]

Geography of Sugarcane Production in Brazil

"This expansion is concentrated mainly in the southwest region of the State of Goiás, eastern and southwestern areas of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Triângulo Mineiro (State of Minas Gerais),and western São Paulo State. Official studies argue that new areas will be expanded mainly into the Cerrado biome, which would have approximately 90 million hectares “free” for the production of agrofuels. The demarcation of these territories, chosen for their extensive flat areas of land which facilitate mechanization, does not take into account the importance of the chapada (tableland) region’s predominant ecosystems, which are responsible for the renewal of Brazil’s most important river basins."[6]

Industry Concentration

Several of the top 10 sugarcane companies in Brazil include: Cosan, Bonfim, Guarani and LDC Bioenergia.[7]


Production Statistics

Brazil's production of sugar cane throughout history is as follows:[8]

  • 2009: 671,395,000 metric tons
  • 2008: 645,300,000 metric tons
  • 2007: 549,707,000 metric tons
  • 2006: 477,411,000 metric tons
  • 2005: 422,957,000 metric tons
  • 2004: 415,206,000 metric tons
  • 2003: 396,012,000 metric tons
  • 2002: 364,391,000 metric tons
  • 2001: 345,942,000 metric tons
  • 2000: 327,705,000 metric tons
  • 1999: 333,848,000 metric tons
  • 1995: 303,699,000 metric tons
  • 1990: 262,674,000 metric tons
  • 1985: 247,199,000 metric tons
  • 1980: 148,651,000 metric tons
  • 1975: 144,289,000 metric tons
  • 1970: 135,024,000 metric tons
  • 1965: 122,077,000 metric tons

As you can see, the rate of increase in the last five years of data (2004-2009, with an increase of 61.7%) represents more than a doubling of the rate of expansion of the five previous years before that (1999-2004, with an increase of 24.4%). This rate nearly matches the incredible growth of 1980 to 1985, when Brazilian sugar production rose by 66.3% during those five years, and far outweighs the rate of growth any other period of history since 1965.

Slave Labor in Sugarcane Production

While the sugarcane industry only accounts for 1% of slavery in Brazil, there are documented cases in which hundreds of slaves have been freed from sugarcane plantations:

"Amerindians enslaved in Mato Grosso do Sul
"2007 was a record year for freed workers, with 5,877 workers being freed from 197 estates. More than half of these labourers were involved in sugar cane cultivation. Although sugar cane production accounts for only 1% of the total activities that make use of slave labour in Brazil (as shown by Figure 3), 2,947 persons were rescued from situations analogous to slavery from just four mills. One estate/mill in the State of Pará, where 1,064 persons were subjected to conditions analogous to slavery, went down as the worst case (not just in 2007 but in the history of the GEFM) in terms of the number of workers freed. The second largest rescue operation took place in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, where 1,011 indigenous Amerindians were recorded as being lodged in precarious conditions. At the beginning of the inspection, the MTE announced that 831 workers had been freed, but as the action continued it was found that more workers were being held in similar conditions. The third largest operation of the year also took place in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, with 498 persons being freed, a third of them indigenous Amerindians. According to the Coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, around ten thousand more sugar cane plantation workers were living in similar conditions. Many Amer- indians in the region have no other choice but to accept employ- ment in the sugar cane cultivation sector, given the difficulties they face in finding work. In the words of the CIMI coordinator: “The agricultural work that the Amerindians used to carry out, harvesting yerba mate, has disappeared. In some ways conditions have improved, but now they have to collect 12 tons of sugar cane a day. This is inhuman and can leave a worker physically broken after ten or twelve years.”"[9]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Klaus Deininger and Derek Byerlee with Jonathan Lindsay, Andrew Norton, Harris Selod, and Mercedes Stickler, "Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?," World Bank, September 7, 2010, p. 18.
  2. Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, Marcos Cristiano Zucarelli, and Lúcia Schild Ortiz, "De-polluting Doubts: Territorial Impacts of the Expansion of Energy Monocultures in Brazil," 2007.
  3. Sérgio Schlesinger, Lúcia Ortiz, Camila Moreno, Célio Berman, Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, "New roads to the same old place: the false solution of agrofuels]," Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil – NATFederação de Órgãos para Assistência Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional – FASE, Terra de Direitos, October 2008, p. 5.
  4. Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, Marcos Cristiano Zucarelli, and Lúcia Schild Ortiz, "De-polluting Doubts: Territorial Impacts of the Expansion of Energy Monocultures in Brazil," 2007.
  5. Sérgio Schlesinger, Lúcia Ortiz, Camila Moreno, Célio Berman, Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, "New roads to the same old place: the false solution of agrofuels]," Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil – NATFederação de Órgãos para Assistência Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional – FASE, Terra de Direitos, October 2008, p. 9.
  6. Sérgio Schlesinger, Lúcia Ortiz, Camila Moreno, Célio Berman, Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, "New roads to the same old place: the false solution of agrofuels]," Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil – NATFederação de Órgãos para Assistência Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional – FASE, Terra de Direitos, October 2008, p. 9.
  7. Sérgio Schlesinger, Lúcia Ortiz, Camila Moreno, Célio Berman, Wendell Ficher Teixeira Assis, "New roads to the same old place: the false solution of agrofuels]," Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil – NATFederação de Órgãos para Assistência Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional – FASE, Terra de Direitos, October 2008, p. 9.
  8. FAOSTAT Production Statistics, Accessed December 22, 2011.
  9. Patricía Trindade Maranhão Costa, "Fighting Forced Labor: The Example of Brazil," International Labour Organization, 2009, p. 45.

External Resources

External Articles