Friday, August 18, 2017

Too much food

From Iowa to China, years of bumper crops have overwhelmed storage capacity for corn, wheat, and other basic foodstuffs. Brasil, the world's biggest soybean exporter and the No. 2 corn exporter after the United States, is also seeing these stockpiles.

This year's harvest has been so big, and prices so low, that farmers have no choice but to leave it exposed to the elements. Record soybean output sits in silos while producers wait for prices to rebound. Growers say the grain stocks may still be there when the next soy harvest arrives in January.

"For the first time in history, producers here will pile one harvest on top of the other," said Rafael Bilibio, who cultivates some 4,700 hectares of soy and corn near Vera, in the mid-North of the state.

Brazil’s corn production in the 2016-17 season is forecast to surge 45 percent from a year ago to a record 97 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency estimates that the 2016 U.S. harvest reached an all-time high and that the crop gathered this fall will be the second-bigger ever. 

Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida(ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso, explained.

Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics. Ssoybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

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