Brazilian officials warn of agriculture protectionism amid pandemic

According to a draft report obtained by Reuters, Brazilian officials expect the COVID-19 outbreak to spur a rise in global agricultural protectionism as countries attempt to secure national food supplies.
calendar icon 5 May 2020
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According to Reuters, the report flags multiple concerns related to “agriculture nationalism” including the possibility of countries enacting export restrictions, subsidies or other policies to favour domestic agriculture industries.

The concerns were raised during the ministry’s recent consultation with 23 agricultural attachés stationed in Brazilian diplomatic outposts around the world.

Brazil has emerged as an agricultural powerhouse due to globalisation. The country is the largest exported or crucial commodity crops like soybeans, sugar, coffee and beef, and is a major competitor with the US farm sector in several products.

The draft report says there is likely to be more state intervention in agricultural markets going forward.

Countries in some cases will ease restrictions when there is fear of food shortages only to "return to elevated levels of protectionism and subsidies when convenient, to stimulate domestic industry," it says.

"About subsidies specifically, there is the risk the pandemic will be used as an excuse for them to be deployed at disproportionately elevated levels," the report adds.

Brazil must press to make sure that any measures opening up trade are not reversed after the pandemic ends, it says.

Last month, the agriculture ministry said it had gained or expanded access to eight export markets amid the pandemic as countries sought to secure food supplies. The markets included Egypt, China, Morocco, Kuwait, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

The report advocates for Brazil to sign further trade agreements to ensure favourable market access for its farm products. Brazil should strive to diversify its export base and types of products, it says.

The food sector must adapt to emerging trends that will persist after the pandemic, including foods with longer shelf lives, the report says, adding that Brazil must also seek to increasingly strengthen food safety measures.

"Food will be increasingly synonymous with health," the government report says.

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