September 3, 2013

Brazilian Government Trying to Increase Amount of Irrigation

The governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul announced last week that his administration would like to double the amount of irrigated cropland in the state. The state government already has three programs aimed at increasing the amount of irrigation in the state including: the "More Water more Income" program which has 1,714 projects either already approved or in the process of being approved which covers 35,000 hectares, the "Small Family Farm Irrigation" program with 1,106 projects and the "Pro-Irrigation Program" with 600 projects approved since 2011.

The state of Rio Grande do Sul is already the home of most of the flood-irrigated rice production in Brazil and these programs are geared to increase irrigated cropland other than rice. These programs employ either outright subsidies to help small family farmers purchase irrigation equipment or low interest loans to help medium and large scale farmers purchase the equipment.

Over the last four years, the government has subsidized 5,000 irrigation projects for small family farms. The government pays 80% of the cost up to R$ 12,000 per farm with a limit of ten projects per municipality.

Most of the new irrigation projects in the state are on small family farms, but they represent just a small percentage of the total irrigated cropland in the state. According to IBGE, 70% of the irrigation equipment in the state is on small family farms, but they are responsible for only 10% of the irrigated cropland in the state.

The state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil has 350,000 hectares of irrigated cropland, but the potential in the state if for an irrigated area four times as much or 1.6 million hectares. Much of the state of Bahia has a semi-arid climate especially in the eastern part of the state. Western Bahia is one of the principal agricultural expansion areas of Brazil and irrigation has been a key to that expansion. Irrigated cropland in the state yields about three times more than non-irrigated cropland.

According to irrigation experts in Brazil, the country could eventually have tem million hectares of irrigated cropland.