Luiz Marcos Suplicy Hafers, 64, says the current explosion in Brazilian ag production is just the tip of the iceberg. He's past president of Brazil's largest conservative farmers union and a key government agricultural adviser.
A fourth-generation coffee farmer, Hafers is also involved in cattle, reforestation and grains in the states of Paraná and Bahia. As a young man, he traveled the world selling Brazilian cotton.
Speaking to U.S. farmers, ranchers and legislators participating in BEEF and Corn & Soybean Digest magazines' 2004 tour of Brazil, Hafers was outspoken about Brazilians' willingness to embrace new technologies and production methods.
“We're hard workers,” he said. “This is not a manãna country like you think of some Latin Americans. We are very, very hard workers.”
Hafers was brutal in voicing his disappointment in American politics and trade policy. He says many Brazilian farmers who were once ardent free enterprisers are now cynical about American trade policy.
“Brazilian farmers feel betrayed by the U.S. failure to live by the rules of free and fair trade it claims to champion,” he said. “I am bitter because my model is cheating me.”
He says Brazilian's feel cheated by U.S. domestic subsidies, and tariffs against imported sugar cane, orange juice and other agricultural products.
“America demanded the world move toward free trade. Many developing nations followed its advice,” he said. But, after opening their markets to American products, these countries find the U.S. market closed to them.
Brazilian farmers can produce orange juice for 7¢ (US)/liter. But, Hafers says, Florida producers are given a 22¢/liter subsidy — keeping Brazilian orange juice from competing in U.S. markets.
He says the U.S. shouldn't try to hold back Brazilian agricultural growth — growth that means more wealth for the 170 million Brazilians who want the world's expensive consumer goods.
“We don't want to produce more to just put money in the banks,” Hafers said. “We want money to spend for a better standard of living.”