The sustainable growth of Brazilian agriculture is a key driver of the social and economic development of the country that has lifted 40m people into the middle class in the past 10 years and ensuring that the population has access to quality, reasonably-priced food. Indeed, food household consumption was the category that saw the single biggest drop in prices in 2017, of almost 5%.
Agribusiness is responsible for more than a fourth of Brazil’s GDP (26,6%), for a value of almost R$2tn in 2020. Data shows that it provides more than 30% of the jobs in Brazil. Record levels of agricultural production and exports helped the country through one of the worst economic crises in its history, contributing to GDP recovery, reduction of inflation, successive surpluses in the trade balance and increase in employment. Without agriculture certainly, the effects of the economic crisis on Brazilian society would have been even more adverse.
Agriculture is important for smallholder farmers in Brazil who rely on their land for the livelihood of their whole family. The critical importance for the economic and social development of the country can be particularly seen in the northeast region.
The northeast of the country is the most economically challenged of all of Brazil, and alone counts 45% of the country’s rural properties. The vast majority of farms in this area – over 90% – are smallholdings of under 100ha.
But that is the rule rather than the exception: across all of Brazil, 89% of all farms are of 100ha or smaller, and only 1% are of 1,000ha or more. This demonstrates the critical importance of agriculture in supporting a rural community of mostly small-and-medium-sized farms, and definitively gives the lie to the myth popularised by some of a country of vast megafarms.
Agriculture has also helped drive social and developmental issues in other ways too, for example in terms of gender equality. According to the 2017 Agricultural Census, IBGE identified 947.000 women responsible for managing rural properties, out of a universe of 5.07 million. Women, today, co-manage 19.3% of all farms and provide the sole or primary management for a further 18.7% of properties.
The economic developmental power of agriculture can be seen in other key preliminary data emerging from the 2017 agriculture census: a 50% increase in the number of tractors on Brazilian farms between 2006 and 2017; a 78% increase in the number of farms with barns or storage silos; and perhaps most impressively, a 1,790% increase in the number of farms now connected to the internet, today 1.4m compared to just 75.000 11 years ago.