As India, the world leader in exports restricts rice shipments, Brazil signaled at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that together with Mercosur partners, it is ready to expand exports and help with global food security.
The Brazilian Rice Industry Association (Abiarroz) said that the country, which has exported up to 1.5 million tons of the cereal a year, has the capacity to add another 2.5 million tons, including stocks that come from neighboring Mercosur countries.
“The cost of producing rice in Brazil is much higher than in Mercosur partners,” said Andressa Silva, executive director of Abiarroz, referring to costs involving environmental, labor, and logistical issues, among others.
“Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina send rice to Brazil at a lower price, resulting in a surplus because our domestic output is destined to consumption. And Brazil is working to transform itself into a rice export platform in Mercosur, with domestic production and the volumes it absorbs.”
In the panel led by Abiarroz at the WTO Public Forum, experts once again pointed out the risks arising from restrictions on food exports.
India, which exports rice boosted by subsidies to 150 countries, recently banned shipments of the so-called “broken rice,” considered second-rate and widely used in animal feed, but which is purchased by several African countries for human consumption as it is cheaper. The government also restricted the sale of various products (white, brown, etc.), not including basmati rice shipments.
Andressa Silva, executive director of Abiarroz, pointed out that, while some governments boost agricultural production with subsidies, distorting markets, and banning exports, consumers at the end of the chain suffer the most. Thus, in this scenario, an increase in Brazilian exports could help efforts to strengthen global food security.
Carolina Matos, export manager at the organization, said there are opportunities to expand shipments to Central and North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Brazil is the tenth largest producer in the world (2% of the total) and the largest producer outside Asia. It is currently the 12th largest exporter of high-quality rice.
Brazilian ambassador to the WTO, Alexandre Parola, highlighted aspects of sustainability in Brazilian production. According to Abiarroz, Brazilian rice has the lowest levels of arsenic, thanks to the natural qualities of the soil, and is non-GMO. In addition, 80% of the production is concentrated in the South region, far from the Amazon. In 45 years, the planted area has shrunk in the country, but production has doubled.