Despite current woes, Brazil seen as U.S. farm rival

BRAZIL - When Paulo Sergio Franz guns a mud-splattered pickup past a spread of white Brahman cattle and wide expanses of newly planted soybeans, it becomes evident this is no ordinary family farm.
calendar icon 19 December 2006
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Mano Julio Fazenda, which Franz owns with an older brother, Marino, is diversified like farmsteads that once dotted the American landscape, with portions committed to several crops, hogs, beef and dairy cattle.

But this is the Cerrado, a vast savannah of semi-wooded grasslands in west-central Brazil where an all-or-nothing pioneering spirit is strong. And the Franz brothers, who came to the region dirt-poor, are now proprietors of a remarkably integrated megafarm. Their energy and resourcefulness, combined with cheap labor and land, help to explain how, in a few short decades, this South American country has transformed into an agricultural superpower, albeit one balanced on a highly fragile foundation.

Collectively, Cerrado producers aim to make Brazil the farming counterpart to what China is to manufactured consumer goods. Burgeoning Chinese demand for soybeans and cotton helped Brazil achieve the biggest agro-food trade surplus in the world last year, $27.5 billion.

And despite an economic downturn that has hit many farmers in the past 18 months, there's no denying the lasting progress. The United States, although still the largest soybean producer, lost its place as the top exporter for the first time when it was surpassed by Brazil, the U.S. Agriculture Department estimated in February.

Source: The Charlotte Observer

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