Brazil is a key agricultural and industrial power with the strongest economy in Latin America. However, despite recent improvements in income distribution, poverty remains widespread, with income inequality a significant challenge at the root of rural poverty. Approximately 35 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars per day; in rural areas, this increases to 51 percent (IFAD 2012). Since approximately 19 percent of Brazil’s population lives in rural areas, this means that Brazil has about 18 million poor rural people. The country’s North-East region has the single largest concentration of rural poverty in Latin America. In this region, 58 of the total population, and 67 percent of the rural population, lives in poverty (IFAD 2012).

Brazil has approximately 4 million farms, many of which are small, family-owned farms that produce at the subsistence level. Small-scale agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of the country’s food production, as well as a significant share of the country’s food exports (IFAD 2012). For poverty in the country to be efficiently addressed, these smallholders must play a central role.

Two of the main causes of poverty in the country are extreme inequalities in land tenure and a lack of access to formal education and skills training. In recent years, the government has established programs designed to address these challenges, including the 2010 Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Law which includes a National Policy to provide support to smallholder production. In addition, in response to recent global food crises, the country’s social assistance program was extended to cover an additional 1.3 million households in 2009. The income ceiling for eligible households was raised from BRL 120 (USD 52) per person per month to BRL 137 (USD 60) per person. Subsidies on marketing and stocking of several key commodities (maize, wheat, and milk) were also increased in 2010 to reduce the impact of the global economic crisis on rural areas. In 2011, rice exports were also temporarily suspended to safeguard domestic supplies (FAO/GIEWS 2012).

Currently, the 2012 maize crop is anticipated to reach a record high of 38.5 million tons. Wheat output in 2012 is expected to be lower at 4.9 million tons. Despite the increased maize output, maize production in the North-East region was severely affected by drought in 2012. It is anticipated that the drought will affect 4 million people. In response, the government declared a state of emergency in several municipalities of the states of Pernambuco, Ceara, Maranhão, Rio Grande do Norte and Bahia and allocated some USD 1.4 billion to assist affected families, with water distribution and support for agricultural rehabilitation activities. The government also created the Integrated Committee in the Fight against Drought (FAO/GIEWS).

Agricultural Production
Agricultural Production2013201420152016
Rice Production
FAO 2016
11,782,549 MT12,175,602 MT12,301,201 MT10,622,189 MT
Wheat Production
FAO 2016
5,738,473 MT6,261,895 MT5,508,451 MT6,834,421 MT
Maize Production
FAO 2016
80,273,172 MT79,881,614 MT85,284,656 MT64,143,414 MT
Soybean Production
FAO 2016
81,724,477 MT86,760,520 MT97,464,936 MT96,296,714 MT
Agricultural Exports
Agricultural Exports2013201420152016
Rice Exports
FAO 2016
816,398 MT837,231 MT883,978 MT630,328 MT
Wheat Exports
FAO 2016
1,188,299 MT277,001 MT1,778,873 MT713,313 MT
Maize Exports
FAO 2016
26,624,890 MT20,654,640 MT28,923,951 MT21,873,310 MT
Soybean Exports
FAO 2016
42,796,106 MT45,692,000 MT54,324,238 MT51,581,875 MT
Agricultural Imports
Agricultural Imports2010201120122013
Rice Imports
FAO 2013
747,909 MT580,594 MT693,757 MT737,363 MT
Wheat Imports
FAO 2012
6,323,216 MT5,740,453 MT6,580,434 MT7,273,279 MT
Maize Imports
FAO 2016
462,539 MT656,336 MT830,443 MT911,387 MT
Soybean Imports
FAO 2016
117,840 MT40,981 MT266,464 MT282,813 MT