December 27, 2012

Increased Irrigation Seen as Way to Limit Deforestation in Brazil

The increased use of irrigation in Brazil is seen as a way to not only increase agricultural productivity within the country, but also as a way to relieve the need of deforestation as a way to increase agricultural production. Currently, there are 68 million hectares of grain, fruit, and fiber crops grown in Brazil and 180 million hectares of pastureland in Brazil and the increased use of irrigation is seen as an important way to improve the productivity of both types of agriculture.

The Minister of Agriculture has initiated a line of credit program with subsidized interest rates that is specifically designed to increase the amount of irrigation in Brazil. The interest rates on the loans are lower than what is available from commercial banks and the payoff period varies from three to twelve years. The Minister has allocated R$ 4 billion for these irrigation loans during the 2012/15 period.

One of the primary goals of this program is to increase the productivity of existing agricultural land as a way to increase agricultural production without the need for deforestation. This could be particularly important in the southern Amazon Region where much of the deforestation has occurred. This region also has distinct wet and dry seasons and the use of irrigation could allow farmers to produce crops year-round thus eliminating the need for additional land clearing. This program could be particularly important in the states of Mato Grosso, Para, and Rondonia.

The increased use of irrigation also raises the issue of fresh water sustainability. Embrapa is already working with various commodity groups in the state along with the Federal University of Mato Grosso to address fresh water issues in the state.