EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 9. The Brazilian Dilemma: Domestic Demand Growing

Brazil’s capacity to export grain will be affected by its fast-growing domestic needs, fueled by a population that is currently expanding by 2 million per year. By 2050, Brazil’s population is projected to reach 233 million, four fifths of the current U.S. population of 297 million. Annual income per person is projected to go from $2,400 today to $26,000 in 2050. This compares with $27,000 in Canada today and $34,000 in the United States. 33

As incomes rise, Brazilians will move up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products. Although meat consumption is dominated by beef, which is almost entirely grass-fed, the consumption of pork and poultry, both grain-fed, is rising. At present, two thirds of the grain used in Brazil is consumed indirectly in the form of livestock products. Of the nearly 44 million tons of animal feed used in 2003, 24 million tons were for poultry and egg production, 13 million for pork, 4 million for cattle, and 3 million for other uses. Grain used for feed is likely to continue rising in parallel with the consumption and export of grain-rich livestock products. 34

One way of assessing future demand for grain is to look at recent trends. Between 2000 and 2004, annual grain consumption in Brazil grew 2 million tons a year. If it continues to grow this much on average as both its population size and income levels approach those of the United States today, total grain consumption would climb to 154 million tons by 2050. This compares with current U.S. grain consumption of roughly 240 million tons per year and would mean that Brazil’s farmers would need to add roughly 100 million tons of grain production to current output just to remain self-sufficient. 35

Stated otherwise, Brazil would need to nearly triple its grain harvest by 2050 to satisfy the growth in domestic demand. By comparison, over the last half-century the United States has doubled its grain harvest, nearly all of it by raising land productivity. Given this large projected domestic demand for grain and the high cost of shipping corn to markets in Europe and Asia, Brazil will not easily develop a large exportable surplus of grain. 36

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33. Population from United Nations, op. cit. note 4; Dominic Wilson and Roopa Purushothaman, Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050 (New York: Goldman, Sachs & Co., 2003).

34. USDA, op. cit. note 1; FAO, op. cit. note 27; Alexander, op. cit. note 20.

35. USDA, op. cit. note 1.

36. Ibid.


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