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Brazil's livestock sector went through a similar process of selective modernization. Until the early 1970s, it remained quite backward; its expansion relied chiefly on the incorporation of more land and animals into production. Following the expansion of agribusiness complexes, livestock production processes also changed. However, major differences exist between the modern and the traditional segments of the beef-cattle, poultry, and swine subsectors--the country's main livestock subsectors.

Between 1970 and 1991, Brazil's beef-cattle herd grew at a 3.1 percent average yearly rate, from 78.5 million to 152.1 million head; the slaughter of beef-cattle increased from 9.6 million to 13.9 million head; and the total carcass weight increased from 1.8 million to 2.9 million tons. However, these numbers hide large regional differences (see table 11, Appendix). The beef-cattle industry in areas near the country's more developed core has experienced considerable modernization, interlocked with the expansion of a dynamic agribusiness sector, which supplies the industry with modern inputs and slaughters and processes its animals for domestic and world markets. As a result, Brazil's beef exports increased from 98,300 tons of chilled beef and 15,800 tons of processed beef in 1970, at a total value of US$298.6 million (in 1992 dollars), to 96,800 tons of chilled beef and 127,300 tons of processed beef in 1992, at a total value of US$618.1 million. A still substantial traditional beef-cattle industry can be found in the frontier areas or in the more backward parts of Brazil; its productivity remains very low, and it is plagued by serious sanitary and management problems.

The poultry subsector experienced spectacular improvements from 1970 to 1991, changing from a small, backyard-based production into a modern industry. This change is reflected in the fact that, while the poultry flock increased 2.8 times between 1970 and 1990, from 214.3 million to 594.3 million head, the total carcass weight of the fowl slaughtered commercially increased twenty-one times, from 85,400 to 1.8 million tons. Moreover, the export of poultry products, which in 1970 was negligible, in 1992 amounted to 378,000 tons, representing a total value of US$455.6 million. The transformation of the poultry subsector into a modern industry was achieved through the development of agribusiness complexes. These modern enterprises play a central role; they provide farmers with inputs, with genetic material, and with technical assistance, in addition to buying the finished poultry from the farmers.

As for pork, the swine herd increased only 33.9 percent between 1970 and 1991, from 25.6 million to 34.3 million animals. However, a small portion of this subsector experienced considerable changes, also induced by agribusiness. Until the early 1990s, the Brazilian swine herd was composed overwhelmingly of mixed breeds of low-quality, lard-producing animals. Moreover, the management of the herd was primitive, and poor sanitation was a problem. The growing modern segment of the pork industry has a high-quality herd of meat-producing animals. Management practices have improved considerably, and there is a similar interaction between farmers and commercial and industrial enterprises.


With the exception of a few specialized subsectors geared to the world market, such as lobster fishing, Brazil's fishing industry has not developed well, despite the fiscal incentives it received during the 1970s. Even the specialized subsectors, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, only increased from 526,300 tons in 1970 to 798,600 tons in 1989.

In Brazil fishing is undertaken by businesses employing fairly modern equipment, and by thousands of independent fishermen spread along Brazil's immense coastal region. Independent fishermen employ primitive tools and fishing methods, producing for self-consumption and for sale in nearby markets. With some exceptions, the commercial segment has not expanded significantly, and in 1989 the production of fish and related catches amounted to a mere 5.3 kilograms per inhabitant.

Data as of April 1997

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Brazil Table of Contents