Category Archives: Economy

X-ray of Brazilian agriculture

Chayote plantation in the state of Ceará by deltafruit/Flickr

Brazilian agriculture is expected to grow a record 40% till the end of this decade – twice the rhythm needed, in global scale, to supply for the growing demand, according to estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The country can give a contribution “to reduce the growth of hunger and inflation that is scaring the world, once again”, says this interesting article by Mario Osava, from Terramerica, a news agency sponsored by the United Nations, focused on sustainability and development.

This is the picture of the country’s agriculture, as portrayed by Osava:

  • Brazil is the leader in sugar, coffee, beef, soy and orange juice exports.
  • The country’s grain production grew 150% in the last 20 years – even if the planted area grew only 30% since 1990. During the 2010-2010 harvest, 148 million tons of grains were produced.
  • The country cultivates 72 million hectares (178 million acres), or 8.5% of its territory. According to Roberto Rodrigues, Agriculture minister between 2003 and 2006, interviewed for the article, additional 90 million hectares (222 million acres) could be cultivated without affecting native forests, because there are 70 million hectares of former pasture land that are already degraded. [My own comment: it is not clear if producers would necessary choose to plant in the degraded lands if they have the possibility of deforesting areas that are still fertile and rich in humus. If you don’t have laws, enforcement of the laws, control by the government, society and the banks, which can decide where to invest, you will have more expansion over native forests and cerrado. But that is, of course, a whole different debate. ]
  • Around 200 million hectares (494 million acres) are used to raise cattle – most of it extensively, with less than one animal per hectare.
  • Thanks to agriculture (and not the industry), the country had a US$ 20.244 billion commercial surplus.

Quoting Rodrigues, the article says that Brazil has “land, technology and courageous producers” to face the challenge of helping grow global agriculture to respond to the predicted the elevation of food prices, but it still lacks a strategy to fulfill “its destiny”.

You might be also interested in the post: Brazil will pay high price for climate change



The most valuable Brazilian brands

Ten Brazilian brands were include in the global ranking published this week by Brand Finance consultants.

The country’s three most valuable brands belong to banks: the leader Bradesco (brand evaluated in US$ 18.67 billion, occupies the 28th position in the list. It is followed by Itaú Unibanco (US$ 16.65 billion) and state-owned Banco do Brasil (US$ 9.52 billion).

The other seven brands mentioned in the study are oil and gas producer Petrobras (US$ 8.697 billion), telecom Oi (US$ 5.046 billion), telecom Vivo (US$ 4.286 billion), mining giant Vale do Rio Doce (US$ 3.749 billion), supermarket leader Pão de Açúcar (US$ 2.723 billion), power generation complex Eletrobras (US$ 2.519 billion) and cosmetic empire Natura (US$ 2.274 billion).

The global leaders are Google ( US$ 44.294 billion), Microsoft (US$ 42.805 billion) and Walmart (US$ 36.220 billion).


All Brazilian hydro power in one snapshot

This great graphic was produced by ONS (Operador Nacional do Sistema Elétrico), the manager of the 78 gigawatt Brazilian power generation system. It shows all the hydro power plants in operation, their capacity in megawatts, in what watershed (bacia) they are located and their proximity to the coast (note that the ocean is in the bottom of the picture). In the center of the map you will see a list of companies (Agentes) that operate these plants (each power plant has a number that indicate its operator). Released early last year, this document has projections till 2014.

Click on the image and you will have the full picture. Or enter ONS website to download the image.

Gaddafi in Bahia

Photo by Abode of Chaos/Flickr

If – let’s make it when – Muammar Gaddafi is finally thrown away of power in Libya, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to get a golden exile in the Northeast of Brazil. The Libyan dictator has huge investments in the region of  Vale do Salitre, in the interior of the state of Bahia. He has, according to daily A Tarde,1.2 billion reais (730 million dollars) invested, through Lafico (Libyan Arab Foreign Investiments) in the Salitre Project, a partnership with Brazilian builders Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez.  This is a massive irrigation project that is not immune to criticisms for its impact on the life of local communities and small producers.


The (high) cost of things in Brazil

The Samsung Galaxy Pad, photographed by steffenz via Flickr

Electronics, cars and several other products are consistently more expensive in Brazil than in the Northern Hemisphere. I don’t fully understand the phenomenon – I suppose it is related to overtaxing and also because the luxury products market is still limited in the country. I would love to hear your speculations about this.

The Expat American Living in Brazil blog has been doing an interesting job exposing these discrepancies. A few days ago it pointed out that the Samsung Galaxy Pad, that was launched in the Brazilian market before its main competitor, the IPad, costs R$ 2,280 (or US$ 1,333 or € 968). Here in the US, the Samsung Galaxy price fluctuates between US$ 400 and US$ 600.

Click the following links to check the price tag of several products in Brazil:

How much does it cost to buy a house in Brazil?

Agente Imóvel, a website specialized in the real estate business, calculated the average price of apartments with only one bedroom in the main Brazilian capitals.  It concluded that Brasília is the most expensive, charging four times more than nearby Goiânia. The report also compared the cost of the square meter in those cities:

Brasília – R$ 8,780

São Paulo and Rio – R$ 4,800

Florianópolis – R$ 4,200

Belo Horizonte – R$ 3,900

Porto Alegre – R$ 3,200

Salvador – R$ 3,100

Curitiba – R$ 2,800

Fortaleza – R$ 2,400

Goiânia – R$ 2,100

Remember that, these days, R$ 1 is worth around US$ 0.58 and EU 0.43.

Agente Imóvel offers a bunch of other statistics in case you are interested in buying a house in the country.

10 brains you will love

Don’t miss this opportunity: great Brazilian artists, journalists, scientists, businessmen and philosophers speak their minds in the new TED conference series produced in São Paulo.

Some highlights (for the versions with English subtitles, click on their names and make sure the CC button, that turns on the captions, is on):

  1. Regina Casé is the comedian who founded  Asdrúbal Trouxe o Trombone troupe in the seventies, then gave life to memorable characters of the comedy show TV Pirata, in the eighties. In 1989, she met researcher Hermano Vianna and this led to a turning point in her career. Together, they created a group of studies and professional partnerships that caused her to shift the focus of her work from art to anthropology. This partnership gave way to Brazil Legal, Muvuca, and Central da Periferia, among other projects that bring to the little screen the realities of the country.
  2. Fabio Barbosa, president of the Santander Group Brazil and my former boss, one of the leaders of the debate about corporate responsibility and sustainability in the country. A brilliant man with a very advanced vision.  Since 2000, he developed a strategy at Banco Real (that now belongs to Santander) that includes offering lines of credit for companies that wish to comply with environmental standards and cutting companies that harm the environment off its client list (I was part of the team in charge of these cuts). The plan became the object of a study at Harvard University. Continue reading 10 brains you will love

Brazilian women status today

Neither Giselle, nor destitute homeless. A new portrait of Brazilian women emerges from a series of studies released in the last few days. She studies and works hard, both at home and professionally, earns less than her male counterparts and has an increasing importance in the country’s economy.

According to Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Ipea), a federal think-tank, the International Labour Organization and Serasa Experian consultants, Brazilian women:

  • Study more – 56.8% of 15 to 17-year-old girls were in school in 2008 (at the grades expected for their age), while only 44.4% of boys were studying. A similar proportion can be observed among young adults, according to Ipea : 15.7% of women and 11.8% men between 18 e 24 were in college two years ago.
  • Do most of the housework – Really, no surprise here. According to Ipea, women dedicate, in average, 23.9 weekly hours to cooking and cleaning their own houses, while men spend 9.7 hours on those chores.
  • A high percentage has bad jobs – In 2008, 42.1% of working women are paid either low or no salaries, or have informal jobs (no vacations, no job stability, no paid retirement). In contrast, only 26.2% of men work under those conditions. In fact, these numbers hide some good news. Things are getting a little better. In 1998, 48.3% of women and 31.2% of men had jobs this insecure. Continue reading Brazilian women status today

Brazil, 20 years from now

From the Chrystal Ball series:

The Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology released today a study that outlines how the country and the planet will (probably) evolve in the next 20 years. Produced by the Centro de Gestão e Estudos Estratégicos, the document offers a time line based on several sources. It is meant to help government plan its future strategies.

Part of its content is easily predictable, considering recent tendencies. But there are some surprises.

Among its main forecasts:


  • In four years, Brazil will go back to its tradition of successive commercial balance deficits
  • Brazilian Gross Domestic Product will be 925 billion dollars in 2015 (which means, less than our present GDP, around 1.6 trillion dollars. It is not very clear how Goldman Sachs, the original source of this information, came up with this number)
  • Brazil, the brand, will increase its value. The demand for products associated to the country’s cultural diversity will grow

Keep reading

Life in Brazil costs an arm and a leg

A worker that earns the average Brazilian salary would need to work 40 minutes in São Paulo and 51 minutes in Rio to buy a Big Mac. In contrast, an average New Yorker would have to work mere 14 minutes to buy McDonald’s bestselling sandwich. The so-called Big Mac Index is only one of the instruments used by the Swiss bank UBS to illustrate the fluctuations of the purchasing power in several parts of the world.
São Paulo and Rio are, indeed, pricey cities. The disproportion is the same for other products. To buy 1 kilo of rice, for instance, you have to work 12 minutes in São Paulo, 15 in Rio and 8 in New York.
Still according to UBS – that systematically compares the cost of life in 73 cities – São Paulo got the 45th position and Rio the 48th in the last survey. This means they are more expensive than Prague, Bangkok, Beijing or Moscow. Naturally, there are fluctuations depending on the product or service you look at. Even if renting an apartment is expensive in Brazilian metropolis it cannot be compared to the exorbitant NY rentals. This explains why New York appears in the UBS study as the 6th most expensive metropolis.

Thomas Berner, an American economist that works for UBS on this study, says prices have been growing consistently in Rio and São Paulo in the last 10 years. The price of the products and service that the bank uses as a reference became aproximately135% more expensive in reais, the national currency, between 2000 and 2009. Berner was interviewed by G1, a website related to Globo, the main Brazilian news network. G1 chose the Honda Civic to illustrate this. The car costs around 15,000 dollars in the United States and 65,000 reais (35,000 dollars) in Brazil.

Once the average income didn’t grow proportionally, you have to work many more hours to keep buying the same. Consequence: the average paulistano may consume less than half what a New Yorker can purchase.

What is your experience? Do you find you find your purchasing power lower in Brazil?