The Brazilian Cotton Crisis
Apr 16, 2019


In 1969 Brazil was considered the third largest cotton exporter in the world. At the end of 1973, the Brazilian Government intervened in the exports. After 1985 Brazil changed from a marginal net importer to one of the largest cotton importers in the world. Cotton production in Brazil was historically based on two scenarios. The most important involved predominantly small farmers, tenants and sharecroppers, who accounted for more than 80% of the total production. The second involved medium to large growers who in general, were landlords. The harvested area in the whole country for perennial and annual cottons was reduced from 3.55 million hectares in 1984/85 to 885 thousand hectares in 1995/96, representing 75.0% reduction. The reduction was 95.0% for perennial cotton alone. Annual cotton in the whole country dropped from 2.24 million to 824 thousand hectares, representing a drop of 63.2% during the same period. The explanation for this severe crisis in cotton production during the last fifteen years is both political and economic. Among the reasons, the introduction of the boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis Boheman, in 1983 was extremely important because at that time, the national and international cotton market was weak. In addition, the liberation of raw cotton imports with zero tariff since 1990 helped to aggravate the crisis. The national cotton crisis has had enormous social and economic consequences. This paper analyses part of the cotton situation in Brazil.

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