Brazil Feeds the World

Cheap labor and a good climate for crops have positioned Brazil to make gains in agriculture. This week we sent global strategist Jack Dzierwa (pictured here) south for a look at opportunities.

Brazil is currently #4 in the world in agriculture, and the sector is the largest component of the country’s $2 trillion economy. It employs more than 20 million people, or one out of every five workers in the nation.

An extended period of good weather this year has cultivated hopes that this will be Brazil’s best harvest ever, but that’s just the start. According to a recent FAO-OECD report, agriculture in Brazil is expected to grow 40 percent between 2010 and 2019. That’s the fastest rate in the world – far ahead of China (26 percent) and India (21 percent) and nearly four times greater than the U.S.

Brazil is already the world’s largest producer of coffee, oranges and sugar cane. It’s the second-largest grower of soy, and third for corn. The country is also a major player in wheat, cocoa and beef.

Beef producers in Brazil have a cost advantage over the U.S. and other countries because their cattle feed on grass as opposed to corn. This is significant because estimates shows grass-fed beef costs half as much to produce as grain-fed beef.

But Jack got a sense that beef isn’t the meat with the brightest future. That would be poultry because of cultural and dietary preferences globally. Poultry sales have increased 5 percent each year for the past two decades.

The ag boom is also big for heavy equipment and service providers. Sales of tractors, combines and other heavy machinery (like the one pictured below) are up 60 percent from this time last year. However, this has been fueled by preferential tax treatment likely to end once the government changes hands in October.

New technology has increased crop yields in the Mato Grosso region, which Jack visited, by 33 percent over the past three years.

Infrastructure is also important for profitability. The breakeven point for soy producers varies by as much as 30 percent depending on their location. The government is putting in two new roads in Mato Grosso to make transportation less of a cost variable. The State of Mato Grosso is important because it harvests nearly 500,000 tons of cotton per year, representing more then half of the country’s total crop.

Major consumers like the U.S., China and Germany are already on board to receive Brazilian farm exports. Once the government addresses infrastructure issues, Brazil should be better positioned to become the breadbasket of the globalized world.

About Frank Holmes 263 Articles

Affiliation: U.S. Global Investors

Frank Holmes is CEO and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors, Inc., which manages a diversified family of mutual funds and hedge funds specializing in natural resources, emerging markets and infrastructure.

The company’s funds have earned more than two dozen Lipper Fund Awards and certificates since 2000. The Global Resources Fund (PSPFX) was Lipper’s top-performing global natural resources fund in 2010. In 2009, the World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) was Lipper’s top-performing gold fund, the second time in four years for that achievement. In addition, both funds received 2007 and 2008 Lipper Fund Awards as the best overall funds in their respective categories.

Mr. Holmes was 2006 mining fund manager of the year for Mining Journal, a leading publication for the global resources industry, and he is co-author of “The Goldwatcher: Demystifying Gold Investing.”

He is also an advisor to the International Crisis Group, which works to resolve global conflict, and the William J. Clinton Foundation on sustainable development in nations with resource-based economies.

Mr. Holmes is a much-sought-after conference speaker and a regular commentator on financial television. He has been profiled by Fortune, Barron’s, The Financial Times and other publications.

Visit: U.S. Global Investors

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