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January 9, 2013

Government Trying to Help Drought Stricken Farmers in NE Brazil

The Brazilian president has instructed the government to do whatever it can to help the 20 million people in the hardest hit areas of northeastern Brazil that continue to be in the grip of one of the worst droughts in half a century. This includes 1.5 million small family farmers struggling to feed their livestock. As a result, Conab has been trying to help the small farmers in the region keep their livestock alive by trucking in corn from Mato Grosso and then selling it to local farmers at below market prices. While their efforts have been appreciated, it has not been nearly enough to compensate for the lack of pastures or the failed corn production in the region.

Local officials estimate that 120,000 tons of corn are needed immediately, but Conab is having difficulty contracting the 4,000 trucks needed to transport the corn from Mato Grosso in short order. The situation is only going to get worse when the soybean harvest ramps up in Mato Grosso and all the available trucks are commissioned to haul soybeans.

Therefore, the National Council of State Secretaries of Agriculture (Conseagri) is petitioning the federal government to consider shipping corn out of the Port of Paranagua in southern Brazil to coastal cities in northeastern Brazil where it can more quickly be distributed to local livestock producers. They feel this is a more efficient way to move the large quantities of corn that is needed to keep these farmers afloat. It remains to be seen if such a system can be organized quickly enough to help the producers in the region. Their best hope would be for a return of more abundant summer rains.