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January 28, 2015

Tobacco is an Important Crop for Small Farmers in Southern Brazil

Even though it doesn't get much attention in the press, tobacco is a major crop in southern Brazil which is responsible for 10% of the world's tobacco production. During the 2013/14 growing season, Brazilian farmers produced 751,000 tons of tobacco putting it in second place only behind China.

The three states in southern Brazil are responsible for 96% of the tobacco produced in Brazil. The state of Rio Grande do Sul is responsible for 52% of the production followed by Santa Catarina at 29% and Parana at 19%. Of the 1,191 municipalities within those three states, 651 or 55% have tobacco production.

In some of the municipalities, tobacco production is the primary agricultural activity. The municipality of Venancio Aires in Rio Grande do Sul is the largest producing municipality at 21,500 tons. In the small municipality of Santa Terezinha in Santa Catarina, 81% of the economic activity involves tobacco production. The municipality has 8,800 inhabitants and 2,100 are tobacco producers.

Tobacco in Brazil is grown mainly on small family farms. According to data from the Brazilian Association of Tobacco Producers (Afubra), the average size farm where tobacco is produced is 16.7 hectares (41 acres). Even though only 15% of the land is devoted to tobacco, tobacco represents 56% of the farm income. In addition to tobacco, the average farmer who grows tobacco devotes 22% of their land to corn production, 8% to soybeans, 2% to dry beans, and 3% to other crops. In addition, 20.4% of the land is in pastures and 29% is in forest (16.9% in native forest and 12.2% in reforestation projects).