SAO PAULO, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Brazil’s farmers experienced an export-led bonanza in 2018, with soybean sales reaching a record amid global trade jitters and rising coffee exports driven by strong demand from buyers like the United States and Germany.
Soybean growers in Brazil, already the world’s largest exporter of the oilseeds, sold some 83.8 million tonnes of that grain last year in global markets, up 23.1 percent from 2017, according to foreign commerce data for 2018 released by Brazil’s government on Wednesday.
Brazil’s largest soybean buyer was China, which remains embroiled in a trade war with the United States that hampered the ability of U.S. growers to compete with their Brazilian rivals.
In May, Brazilian soybean exports reached an all-time monthly record of 12.35 million tonnes, the data showed, as the U.S.-China trade war escalated at the height of Brazil’s soybean export season.
Brazil’s farm export strength confirms the country’s reliance on agriculture and agribusiness as a motor for growth, as this sector contributes to roughly a fourth of the nation’s gross domestic product in a year.
Heated demand from United States and Germany also propped up Brazilian coffee producers, with local farmers selling 30.4 million 60-kilo bags of the bean in 2018, a 10.7 rise from the previous year, according to government data.
Brazilian corn exports, on the other hand, fell by 18.3 percent to 23.9 million tonnes as new truck freight rules made transport costs more expensive in the country, the data showed.
On the energy front, Brazilian sugar exports fell as Brazilian mills directed more sugarcane to ethanol production to the detriment of the sweeter, whose prices are at historically low.
According to the trade data, Brazil’s raw sugar exports fell by 21.5 percent to 18.3 million tonnes last year while there was a 42.2 percent drop on refined sugar sales, to 3.1 million tonnes. (Reporting by José Roberto Gomes Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)