Mozambique offers Brazilian farmers land to plant

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – Mozambique invites Brazilian  soy, corn and cotton growers to plant on its savanna and  introduce their farming know-how to sub-Saharan Africa, the  head of Mato Grosso state’s cotton producers association Ampa  said on Monday.

Jose Pacheco

Brazil has been successfully growing crops on its  center-west plains since a breakthrough in tropical soybeans in  the 1980s unlocked the productive potential of the expansive  region by breeding soy to grow closer to equatorial regions.

While Mozambique possesses similar climatic and soil  characteristics, Amapa President Carlos Ernesto Augustin told  Reuters that some areas in the country on the southeast coast  of Africa even had more fertile soils than Brazil.

“The price of the land there is too good to ignore,” said  Augustin, who added that the risks inherent in buying Brazilian  land as a producer were enormous because of high costs and  stiff environmental regulations.

Producers who are granted concessions to plant would be  required only to pay a tax of 21 reais per hectare  ($5.30/acre), and would receive an exemption from import  tariffs on farm equipment.

Prime productive land in Brazil’s developed south can run  to 35,000 reais a hectare, compared with 5,000 reais in the  extreme frontier regions of the center-west and northeast  savannas, where infrastructure is poor. Brazil’s import tariffs  on farm equipment can also be steep.

Mozambique’s Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco made the  offer after a visit to Brazil three months ago.

The country is offering 50-year concessions for Brazilian  producers to develop 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of  its savanna. Brazil currently plants 24 million hectares of  soybeans and another 18 million of corn and cotton.

Augustin said producers interested in lots smaller than  1,000 hectares could get a lease granted by the local  governor.

Those interested in lots smaller than 10,000 hectares could  obtain them through application with the Agriculture Ministry  and those interested in lots bigger than 10,000 hectares would  need approval from the country’s lawmakers.

Ampa has organized a group of 40 local growers to visit the  Portuguese-speaking country in September.

Brazilian growers, especially of soybeans, are frustrated  by what they call excessive government and environmental  regulation that has made expansion of farmland costly.

The high price of soy and corn of late and the cheap land  costs may be essential for overcoming what are widely seen as  the political risks and uncertainties of farming in Africa.  Mozambique has limited domestic demand, aside from corn and  common beans for human consumption.

Much of the soy and cotton produced there would be  exported, Augustin estimated, and the freight costs for  shipping to China would be less than in Brazil.

“Mozambique is probably going to look a lot like Mato  Grosso (Brazil’s leading soy state) forty years ago,” Augustin  said. “We are well acquainted with the challenges of this type  of frontier farming. Transport will be a concern.”

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