August 15, 2011 / 4:28 PM / 7 years ago

INTERVIEW-Mozambique offers Brazilian farmers land to plant

* Mozambique wants Brazil's tropical farming know-how
    * Offers cheap 50-year leases on land to Brazilians
    * Land has similar characteristics to Brazil's
    By Reese Ewing
    SAO PAULO, Aug 15 (Reuters) - 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
center-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
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), 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 center-west and northeast
savannas, where infrastructure is poor. Brazil's import tariffs
on farm equipment can also be steep.
    Mozambique's Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco made the
offer after a visit to Brazil three months ago.
    The country is offering 50-year concessions for Brazilian
producers to develop 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of
its savanna. Brazil currently plants 24 million hectares of
soybeans and another 18 million of corn and cotton.
    Augustin said producers interested in lots smaller than
1,000 hectares could get a lease granted by the local
governor.
    Those interested in lots smaller than 10,000 hectares could
obtain them through application with the Agriculture Ministry
and those interested in lots bigger than 10,000 hectares would
need approval from the country's lawmakers.
    Ampa has organized a group of 40 local growers to visit the
Portuguese-speaking country in September.
    Brazilian growers, especially of soybeans, are frustrated
by what they call excessive government and environmental
regulation that has made expansion of farmland costly.
    The high price of soy and corn of late and the cheap land
costs may be essential for overcoming what are widely seen as
the political risks and uncertainties of farming in Africa.
Mozambique has limited domestic demand, aside from corn and
common beans for human consumption.
    Much of the soy and cotton produced there would be
exported, Augustin estimated, and the freight costs for
shipping to China would be less than in Brazil.
    "Mozambique is probably going to look a lot like Mato
Grosso (Brazil's leading soy state) forty years ago," Augustin
said. "We are well acquainted with the challenges of this type
of frontier farming. Transport will be a concern."
 (Reporting by Reese Ewing and Roberto Samora; Editing by Dale
Hudson)
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