This review measures the level and composition of support to Brazilian agriculture, and evaluates the effectiveness of current measures in attaining their objectives. The study finds that Brazil provides much lower support to its agricultural sector than most OECD countries. However, a large and increasing share of that support is provided in the form of credit subsidies; support which could be more productively oriented to areas such as research and extension, training, and the development of rural infrastructure. A greater focus on such long-term investments could help Brazil to address the two major challenges confronting its agricultural sector: the need to sustain improvements in international competitiveness, and at the same time draw poor smallholders into the development process.
The report finds that, having substantially reformed its own agricultural policies, the main source of future benefits to Brazil will be reforms in other countries, where access to OECD country markets is the most important issue. Yet while trade liberalisation offers important benefits for the majority of households, those gains need to be placed in the context of the broader opportunities and adjustment pressures confronting both commercial farmers and smallholders.
This study provides a valuable reference for policy-makers, businesses and researchers with an interest in understanding Brazil's agricultural policy concerns at the domestic and international level.
Publication Date: 31/10/2005
Brazil provides relatively little support to its farmers. Producer support, as measured by
the PSE, accounted for 3% of the gross value of farm receipts in 2002-04 – a rate comparable
with that of New Zealand (2%) and Australia (4%), and far below the OECD average (30%).
The highest support levels are for import-competing staples (wheat, maize and rice) and
cotton, ranging between 6% and 17% for these products.
Support to farmers accounts for about three-quarters of all support to agriculture, with the
remaining quarter delivered as general services to the sector, such as research and
extension, training, and the development of rural infrastructure. These general services
include important long term investments, but have been declining in relative terms at the
expense of credit subsidies, about half of which stem from the restructuring of farm debt
accumulated over the period of macroeconomic instability in the late-1980s to mid-1990s.
The low level of producer support reflects the radical transformation of the Brazilian
economy that has occurred over the last 15 years. The abandonment of import substitution
policies has enabled agriculture to grow rapidly. Livestock output rose particularly quickly in
the 1990s, while more recently there has been a boom in the production of soybeans, driven
by high prices and a low exchange rate. These effects have since dissipated, so it is
unrealistic to extrapolate current growth rates. Agricultural growth has been mostly
attributable to improved productivity and lower prices for imported inputs, with increases in
agricultural area a more recent factor.
The recent boom in Brazil’s agricultural exports has been associated with a change in the composition and direction of trade. There has been a shift away from traditional tropical products, such as coffee and orange juice, towards soybeans, sugar, and meats, notably poultry and pigmeat. Although OECD country markets are still very important, with more than 40% of agricultural exports destined for the European Union, the fastest export growth is with countries outside the OECD area, notably China and Russia. Even so, the majority of agricultural production in Brazil serves the domestic market. The share of agricultural production exported has typically averaged around 25%, although that share climbed to 30% in 2004. Having substantially liberalised its own agricultural policies, the main source of future benefits to Brazil is reforms in other countries, where access to OECD country markets is the most important issue. Brazilian exporters are impeded by high tariffs in key markets, tariff escalation according to the degree of processing for several important commodities, unfavourable treatment under trade preference schemes and tariff-rate quota systems, and significant non-tariff measures (notably for livestock products).
At the domestic level, sectoral growth could be further supported through improvements in
infrastructure, changes in the credit system (notably on the treatment of outstanding debt),
and a simplification of tax policies.
At the same time, there is a strong need for effective social policies. Although rural poverty
has fallen significantly in Brazil, the situation for the poorest of the rural poor has actually
deteriorated, and poverty has become increasingly concentrated in the North and North East
regions. This calls for targeted measures to upgrade the farming skills of smallholders, and
to facilitate income diversification and the exploitation of non-farm opportunities.
Investments at the individual level, for example through education and health expenditures,
are important, as are policies that foster rural development, such as infrastructure
Chapter 1 - The Policy Context
This chapter describes the main changes in the macroeconomic and policy environment since Brazil switched from import substitution to open market policies at the end of the 1980s, and assesses their impact on the agricultural sector. As such, it provides context for an evaluation of agricultural policies in Brazil (Chapter 2), and an examination of the impacts that multilateral trade policy reforms will have on the level and distribution of incomes (Chapter 3). Section 1.1 describes the agricultural sector’s strategic importance to the Brazilian economy, while Section 1.2 considers the ways in which macroeconomic, structural and policy reforms have influenced the economy, including their effects on the allocation of resources between sectors. Section 1.3 then focuses more specifically on the impacts that policy reforms and structural change have had on the agricultural sector. In the light of this analysis, Section 1.4 sets out the main challenges confronting Brazilian policy makers. Essentially these relate to the need to sustain agricultural growth, while simultaneously making faster progress on reducing poverty and curbing inequality.
Chapter 2 - Policy Evaluation
This chapter provides an overview and evaluation of agricultural policies in Brazil. Section 2.1 describes the basic objectives that underpin agricultural policies and how those objectives have changed since the abandonment of import substitution policies. It also documents the institutional mechanisms through which policies are implemented. Section 2.2 chronicles the evolution of domestic policies, including credit policies and market interventions, the main elements within the current policy framework; while Section 2.3 examines how Brazil’s trade policies have evolved. This section considers changes in import protection, taking account of the opening up of trade under Mercosur, and the use of policies to promote exports. In the light of this information, Section 2.4 quantifies the extent of support provided to agriculture, and the cost that this support imposes on Brazilian consumers and taxpayers. Section 2.5 concludes with the policy implications from this analysis.
Chapter 3 - Policy Effects
This chapter focuses on two agricultural policy issues of importance to Brazil. One is the market access barriers confronted by Brazilian exporters, including tariffs and non-tariff barriers applied by both OECD countries and in other markets; the other issue is the size and distribution of the prospective gains from the removal of those barriers in the context of multilateral trade reform. Section 3.1 quantifies and describes the main market access impediments facing Brazil. Section 3.2 investigates the origins and size of the sectoral and economy-wide gains to Brazil from agricultural trade liberalisation more generally, i.e. including multilateral reforms in the areas of market access, export subsidies and domestic support, while Section 3.3 explores how those gains are likely to be distributed among different types of farm and non-farm household. Finally, Section 3.4 provides a wider examination of what happened to poverty and inequality in the 1990s. The aim here is to place agricultural policy issues in the context of broader adjustment pressures that exist in rural Brazil.
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