Factbox: Brazil: the world's 21st Century breadbasket

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2011 2:33 PM
Factbox: Brazil: the world's 21st Century breadbasket

(Reuters) - Brazil has for centuries been a leading producer and exporter of the world's breakfast, or soft, commodities -- orange juice, coffee, sugar and cocoa.

But over the past two and a half decades since opening to foreign investment, Latin America's largest economy has also become a leading producer of important grains and meats, through investments in technology and land.

Following is a list of most of Brazil's main agricultural products and exports:

* BEEF: Brazil has the largest commercial cattle herd on the planet, at around 200 million head. Although it consumes about 80 percent of its beef, Brazil still manages to be the world's largest exporter of the meat. It produces mostly Indicus breeds such as the Zebu and Nelore, which are best suited to tropical climates, and most of the herd is grass-fed.

* POULTRY/PORK: With a fast-expanding grain belt, Brazil has leveraged its corn and soy production to become the world's largest exporter of poultry meat and a fast-growing exporter of pork. Feed accounts for about 70 percent of pork and poultry production costs.

* SOYBEANS: After the creation of commercial soybean varieties suitable for its tropical growing areas in the 1970s, Brazil soon vaulted to become the world's No. 2 soybean producer and exporter and one day will likely overtake the United States as the leading producer of the oilseed.

* CORN: Until recently it has been only a marginal corn exporter, keeping 95 percent of the 55 million tonnes-plus of corn produced at home to feed its booming pork and poultry industries. But in the past several years, Brazil has exported around 7 million to 11 million tonnes a year, making it the No. 3 world exporter of the grain.

* COTTON: Brazil was only a marginal producer of cotton but burst into prominence this year, jumping into the No. 4 slot among world exporters of the fiber. This comes on the heels of winning an international dispute at the World Trade Organization against U.S. subsidies. Brazil produces close to 2 million tonnes of high-grade, long-fiber cotton lint.

* TIMBER: With abundant rain, sun and land inside the tropics, Brazil -- as with most of the above crops -- is the world's lowest-cost producer of pulp from timber. Eucalyptus trees in Brazil have a growing cycle of about seven years, compared with 10 to 12 years in Chile and 25 years in North America and Europe.

* SUGAR: As the world's largest producer and exporter of the sweetener, Brazil controls half the world's sugar market.

* COFFEE: The world's largest producer and exporter, Brazil produces between 35 million and 55 million 60-kg bags of coffee annually, mostly arabica. It controls about 30 percent of the international market in the bean.

* ORANGE JUICE: As the world's largest producer and exporter of frozen, concentrated orange juice, it accounts for roughly one in every two glasses of concentrated orange juice consumed in the world today.

* COCOA: Brazil ranks sixth among the world's cocoa growers but was No. 2 only a few decades ago until witch's broom disease devastated its plantations, slashing output by more than half.

* TOBACCO: Brazil is the world's largest producer of tobacco, cultivation of which is concentrated in the southern growing states.

* ETHANOL: Brazil is typically the world's largest exporter of cane-based ethanol, shipping around 3 billion liters a year. This pales in comparison with the 23-28 billion liters that it produces annually for the domestic flex-fuel car fleet.

(Reporting by Reese Ewing; Editing by Kieran Murray and Dale Hudson)