Brazil is one of the world’s most important food exporters and it is committed to leading on sustainability.

Roberto Jaguaribe, President of the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency – Apex-Brasil, told Innovators Magazine about the strengths of the country’s agriculture sector.

How important is the agricultural sector to Brazil?

Over the last 50 years, Brazil has experienced a real revolution in the countryside. The country went from being a food importer to becoming one of the largest producers and exporters in the world. To be precise: Brazil is today the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world and the fourth largest producer on the planet, practicing sustainable agriculture, committed to environmental preservation.

This prominent position brings along many responsibilities, and does not only result from the fact that the country possesses the largest area of arable land in the world. Productivity gains, management efficiency, research, innovation and technological development have revolutionised the country’s agribusiness sector, which has agriculture as a flagship, but involves a gigantic productive chain.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA), in 2016 agribusiness represented 45.8% of total Brazilian exports. That same year the trade surplus was quite positive, reaching US$ 72.5bn, according to the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), which expects a 2% expansion in the sector and a 23% GDP share in 2017.

Our challenge is to contribute in a growing and always sustainable way to meet the demands of global food security, alongside governmental partners and the private sector, focused on delivering quality products to a population that, according to the UN, should reach 9bn people by 2050.

And its responsibility towards the planet?

A substantial part of this responsibility is directly linked to addressing global sustainability challenges, especially those highlighted by the Paris Agreement. Brazil is the country that has most effectively contributed to reducing greenhouse gases emissions, and has great solutions to offer the world in the field of sustainability.

In agriculture, in particular, Brazil has advanced to strengthen the sustainability attributes of agribusiness, based on balanced farming-livestock-forest integration. In parallel, it is investing in innovation, with technologies that increase productivity and reduce demand for arable land. Many of these are extremely high precision and aim, for instance, at reducing the use of pesticides and enhancing soil preservation.

Thanks to modern technologies, grain productivity has grown approximately 220% in 40 years, rising from 1.4 tonnes/ha to 4.5 tonnes/ha. In the same period the cultivated area increased only marginally, whereas, based on the lower levels of productivity, increasing yields to today’s values would have necessitated the cultivation of over 150m additional hectares.

The full interview with Roberto can be read in our latest edition, available this week at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, Montreal – and online.