Feeding the world

By Evaristo de Miranda 

Divide the grain production of a country by its number of inhabitants.  If the result is inferior to 250kg/person/year it means food insecurity. Countries in such situation import food, it’s mandatory. And there are many importers of vegetable and animal food in all continents, without exceptions. Every year, the growth of the population, the middle class and income, especially in Asian countries, elevates the demand for diversified high-quality food, such as the proteins from animal origin.

The world’s best-selling soft drink defines as its mission to “refresh the world’s thirst”. Brazil’s mission could be: to refresh the world’s hunger. And with applauses from nutritionists.

In 2015, Brazil produced 207 million tons of grains for a population of 206 million people. This means a ton of grains per person. Just Brazil’s grain production is enough to feed four times its population, or over 850 million people. In addition to grains, Brazil produces 35 million tons of roots and tubers every year (manioc, potato, yam, sweet potato, etc.). Basic food for more than 100 million people.

Brazilian agriculture also produces over 40 million tons of fruits, in around 3 million hectares. There are 7 million tons of banana, one fruit per inhabitant per day. The same happens with orange and other citric fruit, which sum up to 19 million tons per year. At each year, grows the production of grape, avocado, guava, pineapple, watermelon, apples, coconut... To the tropical and tempered fruits are added 10 million tons of green vegetables, harvested in 800 thousand hectares and with an astounding diversity, which results from the combination of the native biodiversity and contributions of vegetables and spices brought by the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Arabian, Japanese, Teutonic, and so on.

To the yearly production of food, are also added 1 million tons of nuts, almonds, pine nuts and walnuts, in addition to eatable oils - from palm oil to sunflower oil - and a great variety of the heart of the palm. No less important is the production of 34 million tons of sugar/year, present in every home, restaurant and bar.  Brazil’s vegetable production already feeds 1 billion people all around the world, using only 8% of the national territory to do that.

And to all of this is added the animal production. In 2015, the country slaughtered 30.6 million bovines, 39.3 million swines and almost 6 billion chickens.  It is a lot of meat. Something around 25 million tons! The average consumption of meat by the Brazilian stays around 120kg/person/year or 2.5 kg per person per weed. The average consumption estimated for bovine meat is approximately 42 kg/person/year; for chicken is 45kg; and swine meat is 17kg; in addition to the consumption of sheep and goat meet (very expressive in the Northeast and South regions), rabbit meat and other poultry (turkeys, quails, etc.), fish, shrimps and shellfish (increasingly produced in farms) and other animals.

The country produced 35.2 billion liters of milk (compared to 31 billion liters of ethanol), 4.1 billion dozen eggs and 38.5 million tons of honey, in 2015. It’s milk, dairy, eggs and honey enough to make a lot of cakes, pastries and sweets in the homes of the largest producer of sugar.

In 50 years, from importer of food, Brazil became an agricultural power. Over this period, the price of food was reduced to half and enabled most of the population to have access to healthy and diversified food and the eradication of hunger.  This is the greatest social achievement of the agricultural modernization and has benefited, most of all, the urban population. Brazil is off the map of countries with food insecurity.

With the growth of the population the urban demands, what would have happened to the economy and the society without this agricultural development? Certainly, a series of endless crisis. The Brazilian society was supposed to thank the farmers everyday for their modernization effort and everything they do for the Country. Brazil ought to undertake the promotion and defense of agriculture and the farmers, with reason and focusing in the national interest.

From 1990 to 2015, the total agricultural export surpassed US$ 1 trillion and helped to ensure positive trade balances. Today, Asia represents 45% of the Brazilian agribusiness export and China alone has one quarter of this amount. With China, a strategic partner for the future of Brazilian agriculture, new and mutual perspectives came forward for the processing industries, trading and investments in infrastructure, for transport, storage and base industries.

The recently completed mission of prospection and business that lasted for almost one month and went through seven Asian countries, led by Minister Blairo Maggi, sought a new level of insertion for agriculture in international trade.  Follower by a ministerial team and around 35 businesspeople from 12 agricultural sectors, this historical mission included China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.  Feeding the world is synonym to feeding Asia. This requires entrepreneurship, innovation, public-private coordination and partnerships for the short and the long run.

But the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Procurement, along with the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Export and Investment, has a bold goal: to come from a decreasing participation of 6.9% in the international agricultural trade to 10%. And soon be able, counting on technology, sustainability, competence and competitiveness, to feed over 2 billion people.