5. Brazil

Brazil’s relatively low levels of support and protection to its agricultural sector reflect its position as a competitive exporter. Producer support as a share of gross farm receipts (PSE) fell from 7.6% to 1.5% between 2000-02 and 2018-20. In the last five years, PSE fell both in nominal terms and as a percentage of gross farm receipts. There is very little market price support (MPS) and domestic prices almost fully align with international markets with a ratio (NPC) of 1.00. Most support to producers is through input payments, in particular concessional credit, and to lesser extent crop insurance. Concessional credit is available for farm marketing and working capital, but also for investment fixed capital. The products with the highest rates of specific commodity transfer (SCT) were wheat, rice and cotton, all below 10% of commodity gross farm receipts.

Since 2008, all support based on input use – mainly to credit and insurance – is conditional on environmental criteria and farming practices. As a result, the share of potentially most-distorting support fell to 21% of cumulated gross producer transfers in 2018-20 compared to 66% in 2000-02.

Support to general services (GSSE), more than 90% of which supports research, development and innovation, grew to represent 39% of the Total Support Estimate (TSE) in 2018-20. However, expenditure on GSSE fell from 3.6% of agricultural gross value-added in 2000-02 to 2.5% in 2018-20, indicating that the rise in expenditures did not keep pace with the sector’s growth. As a percentage of GDP, the TSE declined from 0.7% in 2000-02 to 0.3% in 2018-20.

Several measures implemented during 2020 confirmed Brazil’s commitment to rural credit as its main agricultural policy tool. New legislation known as the Agro Law has created financial mechanisms to attract funds for rural credit. Pronaf1 reduced the preferential annual interest rates for rural credit by 1-2 percentage points, down to 2.75% for some credit lines for small producers. In response to the COVID-19 situation, Brazil improved preferential conditions on some credit lines and postponed credit reimbursement.

The expansion of rural insurance subsidies continued in 2020, while new initiatives were taken to monitor and improve the insurance system. A new project uses video conferences for surveys to monitor agricultural insurance implementation. A digital platform is underway to disclose information and facilitate the development of applications. And a new training programme was implemented to improve the capacity of insurance indemnity experts. Meanwhile research is underway to improve the National Agricultural Zoning Programme for Climate Risk (ZARC 4.0) by modernising the methods and information on most suitable planting periods.

The COVID-19 stimulus package of the Ministry of the Economy included several social measures for vulnerable households. The Ministry of Agriculture expanded its programmes of purchase from small producers with simultaneous donations to vulnerable populations (PAA) and allowed the continuation of distribution of foodstuffs to students through the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE).

A main priority of the government was to guarantee the flow of food supply to the Brazilian population during the pandemic, declaring the whole food and agriculture value chains as essential activities during the pandemic. A monitoring system is in place to follow the risks of restriction of the flows in the food value chain.

  • Agricultural credit at preferential interest rates represents a significant share of agricultural support in Brazil. The National Rural Credit System (NRCS), based on compulsory quotas of bank deposits dedicated to rural credit, does not explicitly target well-defined objectives. Reform of the concessional credit system could consider further downsizing concessional loans for working capital to commercial farms. Simplified regulations and procedures for commercial credit could facilitate access by rural borrowers. Some credit programmes like Inovagro, Moderinfra and Moderagro are targeted to innovation. Agricultural credit support could further improve targeting to specific outcomes, such as on-farm investments that explicitly enhance innovative and advanced farm management, and environmental practices. The Low Carbon Agricultural Programme (ABC) is one of the main programmes designed to modernise sustainable production systems and mitigate emissions through Low Carbon Emission Agriculture; it points in the right direction, but represents a small share of supported rural credit.

  • Insurance subsidy programmes require continuous monitoring and evaluation. It is essential to continue strengthening their information base while ensuring efficient use of public funds, monitoring their impacts and ensuring they do not crowd out market solutions.

  • Insurance and credit support are conditional on environmental criteria and zoning rules that encourage environmental improvements. The impact of environmental conditionality set by the Environmental Rural Registry (CAR), the Agricultural Risk Zoning (ZARC) and the Forestry Code needs to be assessed with respect to specific outcomes, such as targets related to deforestation and GHG emissions. This assessment should be the basis for improving policy design for environmental conditionality and specific programs such as ABC credit and initiatives against deforestation. Brazil has no agricultural sector-specific mitigation targets in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), but well-designed policies for agriculture, forestry and land use can contribute to implementing strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

  • Access to export markets is crucial for Brazilian agriculture. The agreement between Mercosur and the European Union should open new opportunities for Brazilian exports. In this respect, efforts should continue to improve animal health and traceability, while good environmental performance may also facilitate the conclusion of trade agreements and market access.

  • Almost 40% of total support to the agricultural sector in 2018-20 goes to general services, particularly the knowledge and innovation system. The agricultural innovation system succeeds in maintaining relatively high productivity growth in the commercial sector. It is important to maintain Brazil’s significant research capacity, notably through the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), and increase the diffusion of innovations to a wider range of smaller farmers.

  • Brazil responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a stimulus package, an expansion of social programmes, including Bolsa Familia to ensure access to food, and monitoring of food value chains by developing protocols to facilitate their continued smooth functioning. Expansion and flexibility in the implementation of credit and insurance programmes have been the main agricultural policy responses, and an ex-post evaluation of their impact on those in need could help build a policy environment that enhances resilience.

Brazil has a history of government intervention in the agricultural sector. Price interventions were introduced in the 1940s amid food security concerns (OECD, 2015[1]; OECD, 2005[2]). From the 1950s, Brazil adopted an import-substitution industrialisation strategy, which involved wide-ranging controls over supply and prices in the agro-food sector. Prices were both supported for producers and subsidised to consumers.

The National Agency for Food Supplies SUNAB regulated distribution of basic foodstuffs and set prices and profit margins for all levels of the food chain, including low prices for consumers. This agency also controlled agro-food imports and exports. At the producer level, a general price support system existed for rice, maize, soybeans, beans, cassava, and cotton. Another government agency, the Company for Production Financing CFP, carried out direct purchases of these commodities at minimum guaranteed prices. Marketing boards were created for wheat, sugar and coffee. They set overall production volumes, administered marketing quotas, and controlled prices and trade.

These policies continued until the late 1980s, when the government began to reform Brazil’s economy. The economy began restructuring in the 1990s: trade was liberalised, state owned enterprises privatised, domestic markets deregulated and a customs union established with other South American countries (Mercosur). Agricultural policies were no exception to this move towards openness and less state intervention. State enterprises related to agriculture were dismantled or their functions reduced. Agricultural import tariffs were substantially reduced. Export licensing for primary agricultural products was removed. Brazilian producers faced fewer controls and obtained freer access to world commodity and input markets.

Since the mid-2000s, policy emphasised support to smallholders, and minimum prices for staples produced in the poorest regions of the country were established. Government enhanced purchases of staple foods to be distributed to poor populations, and mandatory sugar cane ethanol fuel-blending continued to be imposed at ratios set by the state. All of these measures remain in place (Table 5.2).

Brazil’s support to agricultural producers included market price support and input subsidies in the 2000s, up to 10% of gross farm receipts. Market price support has gradually disappeared. In recent years, total support in Brazil is mostly in the form of budgetary support, in particular for producers’ inputs and for the provision of general services. Consumer support is also an important part of support since the 2000s, particularly for vulnerable and poor populations. Brazil provides a relatively low aggregate level of support and protection to agriculture, reflecting its position as a competitive exporter and price maker for a range of commodities. Market price support is almost inexistent, and producer support is dominated by subsidised credit and insurance subsidies (Figure 5.4).

Brazil’s main instruments of agricultural policy are: rural credit, implemented and developed since the 1960s; risk management programmes, including subsidised insurance programmes introduced in 2005; some administered prices and marketing interventions; and disaster payments. Other policy instruments include agricultural land zoning, with environmental compliance, and promotion of biofuels. The annual Agricultural and Livestock Plan (PAP) administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) defines the key parameters of agricultural policy. Since 2019, small-scale family agriculture previously managed by the Special Secretariat for Family Agriculture and Agrarian Development (MDA) directly under the Presidency, also falls under MAPA.

Despite the reduction of price support to very low levels, this form of support retains regionally set minimum guaranteed prices, which cover a broad range of crops and a few livestock products such as cow and goat milk, and honey. These are set by the National Monetary Council (CMN) considering domestic and international prices, and the evolution of production costs in different locations. To secure these minimum guaranteed prices, the government implements several price support mechanisms on the domestic market, including direct government purchases (AGF programme), premiums to commercial buyers who pay minimum fixed prices to producers, and public and private options contracts backed by a private risk premium option. In addition, producers receive reduced-interest marketing loans, which enable them to withhold the sale of a product in anticipation of a higher market price. The National Food Supply Agency (CONAB) operates these programmes on behalf of MAPA. Several programmes offer deficiency payments calculated as the difference between the market price and the minimum (reference) price (e.g. the Rural Equity Prize programme called PEPRO, and the Product Reward Prize programme known as PEP).

Agricultural credit is the major policy instrument supporting both commercial, medium and small-scale family farms. It is designed and implemented in co-operation between the Central Bank, the Treasury (Ministry of the Economy) and the Ministry of Agriculture. Most rural credit is earmarked under the National Rural Credit System (SNCR) and provided at preferential interest rates with differentiated conditions for small farmers (PRONAF) and medium size farmers (PRONAMP) compared to commercial farms. The main sources of preferential rural credit are Compulsory Resources or lending quotas, equivalent to 27.5% of sight deposits in commercial banks and 59% of Rural Saving deposits, Constitutional Funds and loans from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES). Additional sources of preferential rural credit are the Coffee Fund (FUNCAFÉ) and the Agribusiness Credit Notes called LCAs (Letras de Crédito do Agronegócio). These are fixed-income securities backed by credit transactions linked to agribusiness, of which 35% have to be allocated to rural credit at interest rates not fixed by government policy. Major agricultural debt rescheduling occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s for both commercial and family producers. Since then, support is provided through debt rescheduling arrangements that are set to end by 2022.

Brazil has other specific credit lines and programmes to promote sustainable agricultural practices, mainly the Low Carbon Agricultural Programme. These include credit for the recovery of fragile areas and pastureland, the implementation of organic agriculture and livestock production systems, the implementation and improvement of no-till farming systems, plantings on unproductive and degraded soils, forest planting, improved production systems and the preservation of natural resources.

Four main agricultural insurance programmes provide support either in the form of insurance premium subsidies or by compensating farmers for production losses due to natural disasters. Two target commercial farmers: the rural insurance premium programme (PSR) grants insurance premium subsidies to commercial producers who establish contracts with insurance companies listed by the government; and the general agriculture insurance programme (PROAGRO) for farmers contracting credit offers partial compensation for bank debts on working capital loans indemnifying losses of own resources invested in production. Most resources from this programme are allocated to the southern region for grain crops, mainly soybeans. Small-scale family farms can benefit from two other programmes: the PROAGRO-Mais or family agriculture insurance (SEAF); and the crop guarantee programme in the north-east of the country (Garantía Safra, GS).

All rural credit is conditional on compliance with environmental criteria defined for the Environmental Rural Registry (CAR). Working capital credit is conditional on agricultural zoning of climatic risks (Agricultural Risk Zoning ZARC), which links agricultural support to farming practices and activities adapted for the environmental sustainability of each geographical zone. Compliance with zoning is required to access concessional rural credit, subsidised insurance programmes and PROAGRO. Since 2008, access to subsidised credit for agricultural production in the Amazon biome requires compliance with environmental regulations, in particular land use regulations set out in the Forestry Code. Rural environmental registration of geo-referenced information on rural property, including property perimeters, location of Permanent Preservation Areas, Legal Reserves, Restricted Use Areas, and areas of agricultural production is compulsory across the country since 2012. Access to rural credit also requires compliance with the Environmental Rural Registry (CAR), a mandatory digital registration.

Biofuels production is supported since the launch of the National Alcohol Programme (Pró-Álcool) and the Plan of Production of Vegetable Oils for Energy Purposes (Pró-Óleo) in 1975. The main tool is compulsory blending of gasoline and ethanol (mainly from sugar cane). The National Programme for the Production and Use of Biodiesel (PNPB) from oilseeds was launched in 2004 to improve environmental performance and energy independence. In 2017, the national policy initiative RenovaBio launched to foster the implementation of GHG emission reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by increasing the supply of alternatives to fossil fuels.

In July 2020, the MAPA released the Agricultural and Livestock plan 2020/21 (PSA). The plan defines the maximum resources for rural credit (BRL 236.3 billion or USD 53 billion) with an increase of 6.1% compared to the 2019/20 plan. The resources for investment credit represent 24% of the total, the rest being dedicated to working capital and commercialisation, with shares similar to 2019. Credit for small producers represents 14% (PRONAF) and for medium producers an additional 14% (PRONAMP), while 72% of the resources are dedicated to other producers not qualified for the former two. The continuity of rural investment is also supported by the new Law 13.986 of 7 April 2020 (known as the “Agro” Law). This law creates new mechanisms to attract funds for rural credit:

  • strengthening the diversification of agricultural credit resources

  • creating a solidarity fund to guarantee agricultural financing

  • opening the possibility for farmers to submit, partially or entirely, their rural property as credit guarantee

  • extending the benefit of the agricultural credit interest rate subsidy to all financial agents, beyond federal public banks and co-operative banks

The inflation rate in Brazil continued to fall from 10.7% in 2015 to 3.3% in 2019 and 2.7% in 2020, and the decrease in the reference interest rate SELIC was even larger from 14.2% to 4.5% and 2% in the same period. In this context, preferential interest rates were reduced by 1-2 percentage points in most rural credit programmes (Table 5.3); to 2.75% or 4% for small producers (PRONAF), 5% for medium-size producers (PROMAMP) and 6% for the rest.

The available resources for the GHG Emission Reduction Program (ABC) has increased by 19.5% reaching BRL 2.5 billion (USD 561 million) in 2020-21. These funds are now allowed to finance the replenishment of the legal environmental reserve of permanent protection areas (ABC Ambiental), benefiting from the lowest interest rate in business agriculture (4.5%). The rest of credit under the ABC programme is subject to a 6% interest rate.

The amount of rural insurance subsidies in 2020 doubled to BRL 881 million (USD 197 million) compared to the previous year, and BRL 1 061 million (USD 238 million) is foreseen in the Annual Budget Law Project (PLOA) for 2021. This will allow to support the contracting of 233 000 rural insurance policies for 127 000 producers, in addition to providing coverage of 16 million hectares and a total insurance value of BRL 55 billion (USD 12.3 billon). BRL 50 million (USD 11.2 million) was reserved for the more isolated north and northeast regions.

A new project to monitor agricultural insurance was implemented in 2020 and is set to continue up to 2022. A system of video conferences helps to evaluate the services provided by insurance companies and to propose improvement in the insurance system in co-operation with farmers’ organisations. A digital platform is to be developed to disclose this information and facilitate access and the development of applications and systems integration. A new training programme in 2020-21 aims to improve the capacities of 760 insurance experts to enhance the technical methods of estimating damages.

Decree no. 9.841, of 18 June 2019, institutionalised the National Agricultural Zoning Program Climate Risk (ZARC) and in 2020, “ZARC 4.0” will be implemented in order to integrate various technical risk data agro-climatic, management, soils and producing indications of risk of drops in productivity. An agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and EMBRAPA with the Central Bank will allow financing research on the ZARC, with the objective of expanding the cultures and production systems with zoning in the country and modernising the methods and information on more suitable planting periods. The objective is to minimise the risks related to adverse climatic phenomena. In 2020, 11 crops and production systems were reviewed by the ZARC.

Amid expectations of short supplies and recovering diesel consumption, the National Petroleum Agency in Brazil reduced the volume of biodiesel blended with diesel sold at the pump from 12% to 10%. The measures applied between September and October 2020.

The National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (ANVISA) published new regulations on nutrition labelling of packaged food products. This regulation requires signalling high levels of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium, which are to be included on the front panel of food and beverage products. However, the new legislation will go into effect two years after its publication.

The Ministry of Economy has led a stimulus package of BRL 1 169 trillion (USD 233.8 billion), including support for workers and most vulnerable population, aids to states and municipalities, credit measures, keeping employment in companies and fighting the pandemic disease. Congress approved the legislative decree of public calamity up to 31 December 2020, which provides fiscal flexibility to the government. A constitutional amendment allowed to have a “War Budget” (PEC) permitting the expansion of public expenditure. A waiver of custom duties on health products needed for the pandemic was approved to avoid shortages, and administrative procedures were simplified.

Together with the Ministry of Economy, MAPA facilitated the postponement and renegotiation of rural credit debts, expanded the timeline of the harvest plan and guaranteed liquidity for a large part of rural producers. Rural credit lines with more preferential conditions (including simplified administrative procedures) were provided for commercial farmers and small producers (under PRONAF). These measures will be maintained for as long as the effects of the crisis affect the agricultural sector. Despite the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of the credit and insurance increased in 2020 in line with previous trends, and the total insured area reached a historical maximum in 2020.

The payment of the Guarantee-Safra benefit insurance programme in the north and northeast regions, normally paid in five instalments, in 2020 was made in a single instalment (Ministerial Ordinance 15/2020 of 14 April).

The main objective of MAPA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to guarantee the flow of food supply to the Brazilian population and to the rest of the world. In March 2020, the whole food and agriculture value chains, from agricultural inputs to consumers’ products and services, were declared as essential activities during the pandemic. The risks of disruptions of the production flow, from the supply of inputs to the production of agroindustry have been closely monitored. To contain the effects of the pandemic in essential food activities and to preserve the health of people who are directly involved, Brazil has developed protocols for the operation of food production and marketing environments within the precepts of the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of Brazil.

Several measures addressed the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable population, including farm households. In particular, these include: a temporary transfer of monthly allowance to unemployed and informal workers, accounting, respectively for 11% and 41% of the labour force; the reinforcement of cash transfer under the Family Aid Program (Bolsa Família), including over 1 million beneficiaries; the postponement of real estate financing reimbursing payments for three months, benefiting 800 000 families; and other measures related to employment, energy supply, and income tax.

The Purchase with Simultaneous Donation modality (PAA) received an additional budget of BRL 370 million (USD 71.8 million) from MAPA to purchase food produced by small farmers and their co-operatives for the subsequent donation to the population vulnerable to nutritional risk (Provisional Measure 957/2020 of 27 April 2020) (Government of Brazil, 2020[3]). The PAA Milk modality received an additional budget of BRL 130 million (USD 25.2 million). The Law 13.987 of 7 April 2020 allowed to continue the distribution of foodstuffs purchased with resources from the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) to parents or guardians of public school students during the period of suspension of classes.

In order to contain food price inflation, in October the Executive Management Committee of the Chamber of Foreign Trade in Brazil announced the temporary suspension of non-Mercosur import tariffs on soybeans, soymeal and soy oil until 15 January 2021, and on maize until 31 March 2021 (AMIS, 2020[4]). Import tariffs were previously 8% for maize and soybean, 6% for soymeal and 10% for soy oil. On 18 November 2020, the Brazilian National Energy Policy Council published a resolution to allow the use of imported oilseeds in the production of biodiesel. Brazil also announced in September 2020 that it will suspend import duties on a quota of 400 000 tonnes of paddy and milled (or semi-milled) rice from outside the Mercosur area until the end of the year.

Since September 2020, Brazil reinstated a 20% tariff on US Ethanol imports, following the expiration of a one-year exemption from import duties for up to 750 million tonnes. However, duty-free imports will be allowed through a tariff rate quota (TRQ) system.

The United States and Brazil agreed to update Protocols on Trade Rules and Transparency to further facilitate bilateral trade flows. In particular, the use of electronic documents and approval systems is enhanced and phytosanitary certificates and customs declarations can now be submitted and accepted by traders electronically.

In June 2019, the European Union and Mercosur reached a free trade agreement involving EU Member States and the members of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay). The agreement includes a “Trade and Sustainable Development” chapter obliging to “implement measures to combat illegal logging and related trade” without detailing what these measures should comprise. During 2020, the agreement was under legal revision and public debate, and continues its process to be approved by the Parliaments of the European Union, its Member States and Mercosur countries.

Brazil agribusiness exports were not negatively affected by the pandemic crisis and increased 5.7% in the period January-October, from USD 81.2 billion in 2019 to USD 85.8 billion in 2020. The main destination for this export continues to be China whose imports account for 41% of Brazil agricultural exports.

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America in area and population, and one of the ten biggest economies of the world. It has abundant land and water resources and is a major agricultural producer and exporter. The share of agriculture in Brazil’s GDP has fallen from 5.5 % in 2000 to 5.3% in 2019, while the share in employment has halved during this period to 9.2%. These shares remain higher than in most other countries covered in this report. Agro-food exports have grown, representing 36% of total exports. Brazil accounts for 4.1% of the population of countries covered in this report, and for 7.8% of all agricultural land. Arable land accounts for 24% of Brazilian agricultural land.

Brazil is among the world’s leaders in the production of soybeans, poultry, beef, cotton, corn, and orange juice, being the third biggest exporter of agro-food products after the European Union and the United States. Two-thirds of the total value of agricultural production are crop products, and one-third livestock products. The main product in Brazilian exports is soybeans (grain, meal, and oil), which represent almost 50% of the agro-food exports.

Brazilian GDP has been growing at moderate rates just below 2% between 2017 and 2019, but the economy shrunk by 6% in 2020 during the COVID 19 crisis. Inflation has stabilised at around 3.5%, but unemployment is high with rates above 10%. Agro-food exports in Brazil are above USD 80 billion per year since 2017, generating an annual agro-food trade surplus of more than USD 70 billion. While 55% of Brazilian agro-food exports are primary products for industry (including soybeans), more than 60% of the country’s imports are processed products.

Between 2007 and 2016, Brazilian agricultural production increased at an annual rate of 2.8%, slightly above the world’s output growth. Increases in production were driven by a growth in Total Factor Productivity (TFP) of 2.8% per year, well above the global average, but also by an increased use of intermediary inputs. In parallel, the use of primary factors in agricultural production declined.

Agriculture accounted for 42% of GHG emissions in 2019, which is below the level observed in 2000 but still well above the OECD average. The use of energy by the agricultural sector has increased up to 5.6% of total use in 2019, also above OECD average. The larger share of the agricultural sector in the Brazilian economy and the importance of pasture-based livestock contribute to these outcomes. Even if the share of agriculture in water abstractions remained high at 60%, but water stress is low. Nutrient surpluses in Brazil have increased since 2000, and the phosphorous balance is six times the OECD average.


[4] AMIS (2020), AMIS Market Monitoring No 84.

[3] Government of Brazil (2020), Ad hoc report on covid-19 measures taken by brazil in the agricultural sector. Submission by Brazil to WTO Committee on Agriculture. G/AG/GEN/165.

[1] OECD (2015), Innovation, Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability in Brazil, OECD Food and Agricultural Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264237056-en.

[2] OECD (2005), OECD Review of Agricultural Policies: Brazil 2005, OECD Review of Agricultural Policies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264012554-en.


← 1. Pronaf is the main credit programme for small farmers in Brazil.

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