Brazilian soybeans

There is an interesting article in this months Progressive Farmer magazine (an industrial ag publication) about the meteoric rise of the soybean industry in the Amazonian region of Brazil–from virtually no production 15 years ago to 9% of the world’s supply today.

The original trigger for this was not an increased demand for soybeans in Brazil (or even South America), but rather in China. In the 1990’s China abandoned its policy of soybean self-sufficiency and began importing beans–going from nearly no imports in the 1990’s to importing over half the soybeans traded on the global markets in 2014.

So virgin land in Brazil was converted to soybean production, where 40% of the land is “double-cropped” each year (bringing two crops to harvest each season). Land purchased for $160/acre now sells for $6,900 per acre and 25% of the farms in the region cover 15,000 to 50,000 acres. Vast fortunes have been made by investors and agribusinesses.

A belated attempt by the government to preserve forest (passed in 2012) requires the industry to maintain some land in forest and experts say it will be necessary to reforest about 2.5 million acres to bring them into compliance.

So Brazilian forest is cleared to make room for soybeans to be floated across two oceans to China.

How can that make sense?

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23 comments on “Brazilian soybeans

  1. BeeHappee says:

    Now Brazil?…. This just makes me so so so mad. Argentina lands had been so poisoned with glyphosate and agent orange and gmo soybeans, gmo corn, and gmo cotton. . “in Argentina, agrochemical spraying has increased eightfold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up products, is used roughly eight to ten times more per acre than in the United States”. Argentine’s grass fed cattle turned to gmo-fed cattle in the last 20 years.
    We can expect same in Brazil. In addition to insanity of clearing forests and transporting soybeans to China. Now that farmers are burning Monsanto seed fields in Europe, we are moving on to clear out and devastate Brazil..
    Thanks for posting this, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. smcasson says:

    It’s disheartening and disgusting, to say the least.

    Like

  3. Aggie says:

    Do you know how they clear the forest? They inject those massive trees with poison. In one town we know of, the local who gets the tree killing job makes enough to feed his village for most of the year. What is his ethical choice?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I think about that kind of thing a lot. I don’t fault the poor who are pawns in the game. Here we are facing the prospect of a chicken processing factory coming to our community. If it does, it will employ mostly poor immigrant women on the processing line (based on what’s happened in other communities), because they’re the only people who will take those jobs. I strongly oppose having it come here (due mainly to my opposition to CAFOs), but I can’t help but think of those women who will stand in the cold all day deboning chicken for $9/hr, and who will have health insurance for their families for the first time ever and the opportunity to get a public education for their children. The ethics of these things can be muddy sometimes. But I try to take the long view.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shoreacres says:

    Just out of curiosity, why did China abandon its policy of soybean self-sufficiency? I had the weirdest thought — that this sounds very much like a strange form of agricultural colonialism: not in terms of political control, but certainly in terms of using other areas of the world for their resources.

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    • Bill says:

      China seems to have gone all-in for industry, content to get food from the rest of the world. So the rest of the world (the U.S. included) is becoming the agricultural colony of industrial China. That will probably end badly for all involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ain't for city gals says:

    It makes no sense what so ever. And you know how they tout soy as being healthy…I don’t believe a word of it. But it reminds me of what we did to China….though they willingly did it to themselves. We sent all of our production over there so we could consume, consume, and consume some more. Out of sight….out of mind.

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    • Bill says:

      Here in the U.S. 99% of soybean production goes to make animal feed. I’m not sure what they’re using it for. But now we’re reorienting (pun intended) our soybean production for China. Virginia now exports a significant amount of soybeans to China. China? Good grief. As for our imports of Chinese crap, you are absolutely right. Our appetite for large quantities of cheap stuff has destroyed domestic industry and transferred much of our wealth to China.

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  6. bobraxton says:

    I thought the size was huge – growing sisal – in Kenya: Dwa estate ltd kibwezi – Kenya. 27,000 acres (we have seen). 4 km or so walk to reach the center where the office buildings and factory are.

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  7. Bill, the answer to the rhetorical question is that it doesn’t make any sense at all but then that’s the answer to most of the agriculture import/export agreements between countries these days. My thought is that if a country such as China imports a major part of another country’s agriculture, could it not then hold that country hostage, so to speak, by threatening to shut down their exports to said country? It’s a dangerous thing to depend on another country for needed commodities, such as petroleum. The middle east have brilliant strategists in that they keep the oil prices just below the tipping point so it’s cheaper to buy from them than refine our own oil. I know in my budget, gasoline is a big chunk of the monthly expense. It’s sad to see one country taking advantage of another and even more sad to say that the U.S. is not exempt from that either.

    Have great White Flint Farm beans day.

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    • Bill says:

      It is a dangerous thing indeed. China is becoming dependent upon the rest of the world for food, but the rest of the world is becoming dependent upon China for manufactured goods (and to be a market for industrial food). This kind of insanity won’t happen in community-based economies. We’ll have those again some day I believe. There may be rough sailing between now and then.

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  8. EllaDee says:

    “Soybean Derivatives Market Worth $254,913.10 Million by 2020″… How things have changed since 1942… In the film Casablanca Rick says to Isla “it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…”
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/soybean-derivatives-market-worth-25491310-million-by-2020-2015-05-25-92033058

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  9. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    Well, as I am catching up on my reading here at Practicing Resurrection, I am on a roller coaster of emotions… feeling hopeful in light of the current Pope’s apparent connection to the earth and the difficulties faced by humanity…and feeling despair at the thought of ag industry’s hold over the planet’s resources and food supply.

    So much to think about this morning.

    Like

  10. I just had a conversation with an old friend who had been reading an author who lamented the “10,000 mile salad” and how people unthinkingly buy soybeans from Brazil to feed veganisim. I like that term as it identifies the problem well. Garrison Keeler said that now we can have a salad whenever we want with tomatoes from Chile flown in the laps of grocerers.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yep. It can be hard to do the right thing with food choices. It’s extremely important, I think, to try to see the big picture rather than focusing on a single narrow issue. So someone who makes the good decision to avoid complicity in animal abuse by becoming vegan, could inadvertently be contributing to the destruction of the Brazilian rainforests by increasing demand for Brazilian soybeans. Keeping our focus and emphasis on local production and community economies is the best way to keep our food choices as ethically responsible as possible, in my opinion.

      Like

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