Brazil has progressively emerged as a major agricultural producer over the past few years: a net importer of agricultural products in the 1970s, the country now ranks among the world’s five largest agricultural producers and exporters. As mentioned previously1
and as confirmed by Momagri’s SGPA2
indicator, this emergence of Brazil as a major agricultural producer is the result of a strong policy aimed at supporting the agricultural sector, and based on a wide range of measures. For more information, we recommend reading the paper written and published by Inter-réseaux on the ‘Zero Hunger Strategy’, of which a number of extracts3
are published below. This paper details the main programmes implemented as part of this strategy which is aimed at: facilitating access to proper nutrition, supporting agriculture, promoting income-generating activities, and encouraging social mobilization. As part of this ‘Zero Hunger Strategy’, Brazil has implemented a wide range of measures: providing storage facilities, family allowances, easy access to credit and insurance, price regulation, professional training programmes and additional programmes aimed at reinforcing control systems and bodies in charge of monitoring the nutritional quality of food… This policy, which is applied to the entire agricultural sector, shows that Brazil has an eminently strategic vision of its agriculture as a means of preserving the economic and social stability of the country, guaranteeing food security and ensuring its position as a leading international country. Europe, on the other hand -- another major agricultural producer, has not yet renounced the gradual dismantling of the CAP regulation system initiated in the 90s. Yet, if Europe wishes to remain a major agricultural producer, it is high time for the EU to implement a strong and efficient agricultural policy in order to overcome the challenges facing European agriculture and its agri-food industry. As Momagri research has already pointed out, ‘a new CAP is possible’: one that is based on implementing strong measures aimed at regulating the price of agricultural commodities and farming income4
momagri Editorial Board
Food security and sovereignty were the two commitments made by President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva. In his inaugural speech, Lula announced: ‘If at the end of my mandate all Brazilians eat three meals a day, I will have fulfilled the mission of my life’. To this end, President Lula implemented the ‘Fome Zero’ strategy (Zero Hunger). His objective was to eradicate hunger and poverty in Brazil, an emerging country where more than one household out of two did not have secure access to food and proper nutrition. The ‘Zero Hunger’ strategy is based on a set of programmes aimed at: facilitating access to proper nutrition, supporting agriculture, promoting income-generating activities and encouraging social mobilization. Overview of this strategy which helped 20 million Brazilians emerge from poverty. […]
The ‘Zero Hunger’ strategy: a coordinated set of programmes
The ‘Zero Hunger’ strategy is sometimes erroneously referred to as the ‘Zero Hunger Programme’. When in fact, it consists in a global political strategy based on a set of approx. thirty different programmes aimed at: providing secure access to food, supporting family-owned farms and income (income-generating activities), promoting partnerships and social mobilization. Main programmes include:
- A family allowance system: la Bolsa Familia
This programme is aimed at redistributing wealth in the form of a family allowance based on household income, children in full-time education (children must attend at least 85% of lessons), child medical care (vaccinations), and medical care for pregnant women. Approx. 48 million people are beneficiaries of this allowance (out of a total population of approx. 200 million Brazilians). On average, this allowance adds up to approx. 40 euros and is only paid to women. When the ‘Zero Hunger’ project was first launched, the Food Card (which preceded the Bolsa Familia) was promoted as a means of encouraging consumers with a low purchasing power to buy food from local farmers. Unfortunately this card was equipped with a magnetic strip (similar to a credit card), which could only be used in shops equipped with magnetic credit card readers, in this case supermarkets which are supplied by the agri-food industry. In order to rectify this, the government implemented a new system whereby users could retrieve Bolsa Familia payments from banks, so food purchases no longer implicitly benefited the agri-food industry. Interestingly, purchases are not regulated and users are free to spend the money as they wish.
- A programme aimed at supporting family-owned farms (based on access to credit and insurance): the PRONAF
PRONAF provides loans at subsidised interest rates to small farmers. These loans are calculated based on income, and are granted to all farmers that are at the head of what is legally deemed a family-owned farm. Nowadays, there is a growing controversy that this wide definition of a ‘family-owned farm’ allows large scale farmers to benefit from these loans at the expense of small farmers. This question underpins the dilemma of providing the right kind of financial support to family-owned farms: must loans and subsidies only be granted to small farmers, or to all family-owned farms, including larger-scale family-owned farms, in the hope of creating a positive domino effect (but at the risk of promoting land concentration)?
- A federal public food acquisition programme: the PAA
This state programme buys food from family-owned farms and stores it in order to supply programmes aimed at facilitating access to food. Food is bought at a guaranteed price which is that of the domestic market. Food purchasing is coordinated by the CONAB (National Company of Food Supply), which supplies this food to state organizations and local municipalities. The PAA helps small farmers build up stocks: the CONAB pays them subsidies which they can use to buy food produced by family-owned farms. Food produced by agro-ecological farms is granted a 30% price bonus by the state, as a means of promoting this type of agriculture. There is an upper limit to all state-granted subsidies. At the outset, the upper limit for the PAA was 2,500 Reals/year per farm, to prevent the WTO interpreting the measure as subsidized pricing, and taking sanctions against it. Under the pressure of farming organizations and social movements the upper limit was raised to 4,000 Reals, but without this being entirely sufficient to ensure a decent income to farmers. In 2010, only 160,000 farmers sold their production through the PAA scheme, which denotes the limited scope of this programme and the lack of information in direction of farmers.
- A school feeding programme: the PNAE.
This programme ensures that all school children in public schools get a free meal that is nutritionally healthy and which reflects traditional food habits. At least 30% of the food included in these meals must be purchased through the PAA and produced by local family-owned farms (the principle of inter-sectorality is applied in this case). Some argue that food procurement, which is managed on a local level, is based on clientelism and benefits to only a handful of local farmers.
[…] The ‘Zero Hunger’ strategy extends well beyond the four programmes mentioned above, it includes a vast range of measures, such as risk management (insurance), price regulation, professional training programmes and additional programmes aimed at reinforcing control systems and bodies in charge of monitoring the nutritional quality of food... […]
1 See momagri articles http://momagri.org/UK/regards-sur-l-actualite/Agriculture-bresilienne-des-soutiens-budgetaires-a-la-hauteur-des-enjeux-_1133.html and http://momagri.org/UK/articles/L-agriculture-un-secteur-strategique-pour-la-croissance-bresilienne_1089.html
3 We recommend reading the entire note on the website of Inter-réseaux (in french) : http://www.inter-reseaux.org/bulletin-de-veille/article/note-de-synthese-inter-reseaux-la