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  • The Landless Workers' Movement cuts down eucalyptus trees and replaces them with beans and corn in Bahia, Brazil, April 2004.

    The Landless Workers' Movement cuts down eucalyptus trees and replaces them with beans and corn in Bahia, Brazil, April 2004. | Photo: EFE

Published 31 July 2018

"And despite the territorial struggles, there are signs of greater concentration of land," said Gilmar Mauro, of the Landless Workers' Movement.

Analyzing the latest data published by Brazil's Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE), rural leader Gilmar Mauro found large estates are growing in the South American country, despite producing less and employing fewer people than smaller properties.

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In an interview with Radio Brasil do Fato, Mauro, of the leadership of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), said the IBGE showed the vast socioeconomic differences in Brazilian reality by presenting data about the biggest land properties.

"Only 2,400 properties with more than 10,000 hectares (24,710.5 acres) each own more land than most of the properties in the hands of the people," said Mauro, who claims that properties up to 50 hectares (123.5 acres) "produce more food and employ most of the labor in the fields."

The IBGE published the preliminary results of the 2017 Agriculture and Livestock Census on Thursday, including information regarding the profile of producers, rural properties, agrarian structures, lease, and agrochemical use.

The large agro tenures owned 45 percent of agricultural land in 2006 and, according to latest data, these now own 47.5 percent. Brazil's properties of 24,710.5 or more acres now represent 128,494,798 acres (52 million hectares). On the other hand, properties with no more than 247 acres each (100 hectares) represent 177,915,874.6 acres (72 million hectares).

In total, agricultural land has increased 39,536,861 acres (16 million hectares) since the last census.

According to Mauro, Brazil is one of the countries with the most severe land concentration in the hands of the few: "And despite the fight for land, for the establishment of Indigenous territories, quilombolas [ancestral territories of a people of African descent], has evidently advanced in the last times. There are signs of a greater concentration of land."

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The leasings have increased and, even though the IBGE has yet to specify what each land is producing, Mauro fears this is focused on single-crop farming.

"The information doesn't show that it's the small agriculture the one employing labor and producing food in Brazil," Mauro said. "A big part of the paid labor in the fields is, mostly, in properties up to 50 hectares, which are diminishing."

Mauro also pointed out how big properties increase in ownership and employ fewer people due to their use of technology, tractors, and single-crops, aiming for exports.

Since the last census in 2006, tractors sales increased in 50 percent, which means there are about 1.23 million currently operating in Brazil, while harvesters' sales increased 49 percent.

During the Global Agribusiness Forum in Sao Paulo on July 23, Alan Bojanic, UN Food and Agriculture Organization's representative, said Brazil will account for an estimated 70 percent of the world's arable land growth through 2050.

Bojanic said the UN food agency estimates the world's arable land will expand by 69 million hectares (170.5 million acres) in that time frame, with 49 million hectares (121 million acres) of that growth taking place in Brazil.

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