Brazil produces 12 million tons of rice per year. Whereas national production currently averages at approximately 2,800 kilograms per hectare, farmers in Rio Grande do Sul manage to reap 7,000 kilograms per hectare. The state's export effort arose precisely from the productivity increase.
Since 2003, Rio Grande do Sul carries out a program to improve productivity. At the time, production totaled 5,500 kilograms per hectare. The aim is to reach 10,000 kilograms per hectare. In order to sell the production, the state implemented an export program as well, says the commercial director of the Rice Institute of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Irga), Rubens Silveira.
He claims, however, that a large portion of rice production concentrates in Asia: 94% of all the rice in the world is produced in the continent, and 93% is consumed there as well. Brazil produces approximately 12 million tons of rice and consumes 13 million tons.
Given the fact that the country imports the commodity, though, especially from its neighbors Argentina and Uruguay, there is space to export. Rio Grande do Sul exported, last year, 313,000 tons of rice. In 2004, the volume stood at 53,000 tons.
Brazil has significantly increased its exports of rice to the Arab countries between January and May this year. Sales went from US$ 8,300 in the first five months last year to US$ 694,900 in the same period this year.
A large portion of the revenues obtained went to the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which answered to more than half – or US$ 390.4 million – of total foreign sales. The other Brazilian state that exported the commodity to the League of Arab States was Santa Catarina, also in the South of Brazil.
Brazilian farmers and industries shipped 1.1 tons of rice to the Arab world during the period. From January to May 2007, sales reached only 19.9 tons. Four Arab countries bought rice from Brazil until May this year. Syria and Jordan were the leading buyers of Brazilian rice in the region, with 375 tons purchased each. Next came Lebanon, with 250 tons, and then Algeria, with imports of 150 tons.
According to Rubens Silveira, the Middle East is currently the world's second largest importer of rice, losing only to the African continent.
The region imports, per year, 6.1 million tons. Rio Grande do Sul, according to him, has been putting on an effort to export more rice to the region. Between January and May this year, the state exported US$ 58.7 million in rice. Despite being on the rise, sales to the Arabs are still low, according to Silveira.
"However, the market has potential and we are interested in exporting more to them," says Silveira. In the beginning of this year, the state organized a trade mission to the United Arab Emirates, comprised of government officials, representatives of the agricultural, industrial and services sectors, and one of the issues approached was rice sales.
Rio Grande do Sul is responsible for 60% of the Brazilian rice crop. In terms of irrigated rice, which has greater quality, the state's share goes up to 85%. Silveira explains that up until last year, what Brazil exported was dry cropping rice, of lower quality, to Africa.
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