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New Agenda for NFU IATC Brazil Trip

16 February 2009
National Farmers Union

BRAZIL - The potential for Brazil's rapid growth in agricultural production to fill the gap between global production and consumption was one of the talking points when NFU vice president Paul Temple met the president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock during a recent IATC visit to Brazil.

The high level visit, organised by the IATC (International Agri-Technology Centre), concluded with the meeting with Senator Katia Abreu, the first female president of the CNA, which represents 1.5 million members. Senator Abreu said she recognised the sheer scale of Brazil's production created fear amongst other countries, but emphasised the important role the country would increasingly play in global food security, and raised her own concerns about the reduction in global food stocks.

She also acknowledged the more open European support changes with their focus on the producer, rather than production, in comparison with the US, but said Brazilian producers were frustrated by what they perceived to be unwarranted barriers to markets.

"When it comes to frustration, I pointed out that European, and in particular UK, producers share similar frustrations, but also face the added costs of production associated with the requirements for cattle ID and traceability which are fundamental to gaining market access," said Paul Temple. "European producers are not necessarily fearful of trade with Brazil, but we do expect Brazilian producers to be subject to the same rules and traceability standards as we are, and which continue to be ramped up with the proposed introduction of schemes like EID for sheep."

Brazil has around 180 million head of cattle, and Senator Abreu acknowledged that bringing in cattle traceability across the board would be a hugely expensive process.

"She did, however, make clear that there was 71 million hectares of land available for agricultural cropping and production, none of which compromised a square foot of rainforest, and that figure did not include the 176 million hectares of land already in conservation areas! What was abundantly clear during the visit was not just the sheer scale of agricultural production there, but the huge importance placed on the industry and its role in the economy," said Mr Temple.

"Agriculture represents 36 per cent of Brazil's exports, employs 37 per cent of the workforce and makes a 24 per cent contribution to GDP. I was struck forcibly by the difference in emphasis on the importance of farming placed by own Government and that of Brazil during a visit to Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, which is linked to their ministry for agriculture.

"It employs over 8,000 people and has a budget of $650m, with the aim of finding practical solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness through knowledge and technology generation and transfer. Compare that to our situation, where funding for agri R&D continues to slide year-on-year," said Mr Temple.

The trip also included meetings with the British embassy on biofuels and climate change, and visits to Brazil's Institute of Food Technology and the 3,825ha agricultural satellite site of Sao Paulo University.

"The visit was an excellent opportunity to explore the benefit of partnership working in key areas of agri-technology, and really highlighted the good work being done by the IATC, based at Stoneleigh Park," said Mr Temple.

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