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RIO DE JANEIRO, April 25 (Reuters) - More of the Amazon rain forest should be cut down to make way for farmland to help ease the global food crisis, the governor of a big Brazilian farming state was quoted on Friday as saying.
Blairo Maggi, the governor of Mato Grosso state and Brazil's largest soy producer, was quoted in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper as defending deforestation.
"With the worsening of the global food crisis, the time is coming when it will be inevitable to discuss whether we preserve the environment or produce more food. There is no way to produce more food without occupying more land and taking down more trees," said Maggi, a farming pioneer in the vast western state who is widely known as the "King of Soy."
"In this moment of crisis, the world needs to understand that the country has space to raise its production."
Folha said the areas with the most deforestation, legal and illegal, in the second half of 2007 were in Mato Grosso, a huge agricultural state in westen Brazil still half covered by rain forest.
Brazil's booming economy, soy farming and cattle ranching have put pressure on land prices and fueled deforestation.
Official figures released in January showed that between August and December of last year, about 2,700 square miles (7,000 square km) were chopped down illegally in the Amazon rain forest. It was the first increase in deforestation after three years of declines and coincided with a rise in global food prices.
(Reporting by Stuart Grudgings, editing by Jackie Frank)