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Food security and Brazil's role in the global food supply

The expected growth for world population and income in the coming years have led governments around the globe to develop strategies and partnerships to assure food security. On one hand, if there is the need to encourage the growth of food production, on the other, producing countries are required to gather efforts in order to develop more sustainable producing systems.


The Food Security concept may be evaluated by two aspects: quality and quantity. The term Food Safety, or food health, refers to the quality of food, involving concerns with physical, chemical and biological contamination in processes of production, processing, logistics and final preparation that can harm both the human health and the environment. As for the term Food Security, it refers to the availability of food that is enough to meet all necessities of the population.


As for the quantity, Brazil is a success story. The country is a major world player, producing enough food to supply its domestic market and a big share of the international demand. According to the USDA, Brazil is currently the largest exporter of meat (beef and chicken meat), soybean, sugar, orange juice and coffee. Moreover, it is among the major exporters of cotton, corn, fruits, pork and forest products.


Brazil is currently a world power regarding to food production and it can produce much more due its comparative advantages, such as the availability of natural resources (water, land) in relation to other countries. However, it is interesting to observe the historical dynamics to understand how Brazil hit this privileged position and what are its challenges to keep the farming production increasing in a sustainable way in the coming years.


Although Brazil has its economy linked to farming production throughout its existence, the country depended significantly on food imports until the 1970’s. At the end of that decade, Brazil invested on the domestic food production, as a strategy of food security. The support was provided by agricultural credit and the development of tools to maintain prices, which had a participation of the private sector in early 2000. Moreover, the investment of Research and Development resulted in new technologies that allowed the production of grains in Cerrado and, in the 2000’s, in Matopiba (Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia states).


Technological innovations in agriculture boosted the productivity level, allowing the production to increase more than four times from 1990 to 2020, while the area used in the grains production rose only 68% in the same period, according to data from IBGE. As for other crops, such as coffee and orange, production increased, but the area moved down. Thus, it was because of investment and encouragement that Brazil lived the “Revolução Verde” at the end of last century.


Food self-sufficiency is a challenge for the economic development and social stability for the next generations, given that natural resources are limited and that part of the production is allocated to other uses, such as biofuel, fiber and industrial raw material. Therefore, in order to promote the expansion of production and productivity, the use of agrochemicals, agricultural machinery and biological and information technologies has become a necessity.


However, these products and resources need to be used rationally and according to scientific recommendations, aiming to mitigate damages to the health of producers and consumers and to natural resources throughout its flow in supply chains. As a result, the development of new technologies for sustainable production, less damaging to the environment, is again the path to assure food security to future generations.

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