[BRIEF NOTE] Will Brazilian farmers move to Mozambique?
One thing I’ve observed here for the past few years, as far back as 2003, is the accelerating (and non-exclusive) integration of the different Lusophone countries of the world–Brazil, Portugal, Angola and Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde and Sao Tomé e Principe, East Timor in the Pacific–in any number of domains. After a sufficient amount of time following the end wars of independence in Portuguese Africa and the successful transitions to democracy in Portugal itself and Brazil, the bonds of language and history could return, ultimately under the benign hegemony of a Brazil that has emerged as a great power. This has manifested in any number of ways, from coordinated language reforms to surveillance of and support for troubled democracies to East Timorese purchase of Portuguese government debt.
One new way in which this is being manifested is in the intensification of migratory flows. After a time in the 1990s when Portugal became a country of net immigration, economic malaise in Portugal has definitely accelerated flight of Portuguese around the world, to points in western Europe and the rest of the Lusophone world in substantial numbers as far away as Angola. A new flow may yet form, of Brazilian farmers migrating to Mozambique.
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.
Brazil has been successfully growing crops on its centre-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 Mr. 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 U.S.), 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 centre-west and northeast savannas, where infrastructure is poor. Brazil’s import tariffs on farm equipment can also be steep.
[. . .]
“Mozambique is probably going to look a lot like Mato Grosso [Brazil’s leading soy state] 40 years ago,” Mr. Augustin said. “We are well-acquainted with the challenges of this type of frontier farming. Transport will be a concern.”
An offer is one thing, and it is true that there is interest on both sides in substantially strengthening ties between rising Brazil and terribly poor Mozambique. Will the offer be taken up by any significant number of Brazilian farmers and agricultural businesses? Will the interest be sustained? Watch this space for more.