One state, one nation


Ever since Adam Smith, we have known the significance of economic production and trade for the prosperity of nations. The math is very simple: the more one produces and trades what one is competitive in, the better the living standards of that society. If we look through lenses other than the economic one, we will also see that trade is an exchange of cultures and experiences that enrich a nation in other ways, increasing the complexity and diversity of peoples. If one doesn’t want to change, one must not trade, because it’s a path of no return.

We don’t know how, but these ideas are written into the genetic code of the people from Rio do Grande do Sul state, the gaúchos. Producing and trading, as well as spreading and embracing cultures, and preserving their roots without losing their essence. These people, who set out to sea and into the backlands, unsure of what they would find along the way but certain of what they were seeking, added greatly to Brazil as they became the agro-export powerhouse they are today.

Firstly, they did it with neighboring Argentinians and Uruguayans, through rice and cattle trade, and as production and trade grew, the region proved to be small, and the focus turned to two much more challenging directions, one of producing in western Brazil, while the other of seeking trade opportunities across the Atlantic.

Thus began the saga of these restless Brazilians, who left the comfort of their homes in the south, put their families and their simple work tools in the back of an old truck, and went on to colonize other regions, just like other Brazilians, where there was nothing but distant dreams to be accomplished and a lot of work to be done.

The current reality is different. In 2023, Rio Grande do Sul exported US$ 22.3 billion to more than 200 countries. Confirming the state’s vocation, exports of agricultural products accounted for around 71% of this. From 2000 to 2023, the state’s agro sales in the international market grew by 334%. It’s not for nothing that the word gaúcho means “inhabitant of the pampas countryside who raises cattle.”

Rio Grande do Sul is a major agricultural producer and exporter: it is the main producer of several crops, such as rice (71%), wheat (51%), and grapes (51%). If there were a figure showing the total production of families of gaúchos or their descendants spread throughout Brazil, we would be able to estimate at least part of the contribution of the gaúchos to the successful story of the Brazilian agricultural sector. One cannot disassociate the growth of the national agricultural sector from the gaúchos’ journey into Brazil.

However, Rio Grande do Sul is currently facing one of the largest climate disasters in the history of Brazil, where precisely the most populous regions have been the worst affected. This situation puts a huge question mark on recovery, which could be V- or U-shaped depending on the coordinated actions of the private and public sectors.

Cities and rural areas were hit hard. All sectors of the state economy have suffered still incalculable losses. It is a fact that Rio Grande do Sul’s recovery is not just in their own interest but in the performance of the entire Brazilian economy.

The gaúchos, who gave generations of sons and daughters to help occupy and build Brazil, today are embraced and aided by the whole country, which teaches us that Brazil is indeed a nation, a true country.

Let this union serve as an example. We have a world to feed and a country to grow through the production and trading of goods and, as Tolstoy said, “if you want to be universal, start by painting your village.” This state needs help and this is in the interest of the whole of Brazil.

Sueme Mori is the Director of International Relations at the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA). The article was written with the input of Antônio da Luz, Chief Economist at the Federation of Agriculture of the Rio Grande do Sul State (FARSUL).

*Article originally published on Broadcast