BRAZIL – As a leading producer of corn and soybeans, Brazil aims to achieve wheat self-sufficiency within the next decade, according to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). 

Brazil consumes over 12 million tonnes of wheat and wheat-based products annually, while its national production is projected to reach approximately 9.5 million tonnes for the marketing year 2024-25. 

This consumption-production gap has historically been filled by imports, primarily from Argentina, which supplies more than 80% of Brazil’s imported wheat.

Brazil has significantly increased its wheat production over the past two decades. In the early 2000s, Brazil’s domestic wheat production met just over 30% of national demand. 

By the 2022-23 harvest, this self-sufficiency rate had risen to 80%. Despite this progress, closing the production-consumption gap entirely remains challenging.

The Brazilian government’s strategy to achieve wheat self-sufficiency involves expanding wheat cultivation into the Cerrado biome, a vast savanna-like region in Central Brazil. 

The government plans to utilize almost 4 million hectares of degraded land and introduce wheat seed varieties adapted to the dry weather and soil conditions prevalent in the Cerrado. 

The region covers about 22% of Brazil’s area and has distinct rainy and dry seasons that could benefit wheat cultivation.

Historically, wheat production in Brazil has been concentrated in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná, which contribute approximately 80% of the country’s annual wheat output. 

These states offer temperate and subtropical climates ideal for wheat farming. However, Brazil must expand beyond these traditional areas to reach self-sufficiency.

The Cerrado’s well-defined weather patterns, with six months of rain and six months of drought, present both opportunities and challenges for wheat cultivation. 

The region’s predictable climate can help combat diseases and pests, aiding in the choice between rainfed or irrigated farming systems.

In the early 1990s, the Brazilian government ceased interventions in wheat purchases, pushing the sector to improve its grain quality to meet international standards.

This shift led to the development of high-quality bread wheat cultivars, which replaced the previously dominant soft wheat varieties. 

These new cultivars enabled the production of a range of industrialized food products and animal feed with higher nutritional value.

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) has been instrumental in developing wheat cultivars that are resistant to drought and heat and suitable for Cerrado.

Despite these advancements, farmers in Central Brazil face significant challenges, such as high input costs due to poor soil quality, high incidences of wheat blast, and the need for specialized equipment and logistics for wheat production.

Another major hurdle is the Cerrado region’s lack of large milling facilities. While the state of Minas Gerais has a milling capacity of 800,000 tonnes, it currently processes only 200,000 tonnes.

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