Is Brazilian Infrastructure Limiting Growth in the Agricultural Sector?

Alfred Gilbert
Mon, 15 May 2017
Email Author

Brazil is in a period of instability. The nation’s economy has seen repeating years of recession, in part driven by, and in part driving, further political and social issues throughout the country. However, the agricultural sector throughout this period has actually remained relatively stable in comparison to other markets. This ‘stability’ within agriculture can be understood as both a positive and concerning sign for a number of commentators related to the sector. And the issue with this lies in the countries limited agricultural infrastructure.

As mentioned, agriculture is a very important sector for Brazil. The country is fortunate to be blessed with large amounts of agricultural resources and land area, which has enabled it to become a world leading producer and exporter of many different crops. Brazil can now be called an agricultural superpower, capable of rivaling the historically dominant U.S and European markets.



According to the most recent figures (1), 15.7% of the total Brazilian labour force are directly employed in agriculture. 75% of these farm workers are currently employed in the country’s 4-million ‘family farms’ (2), which account for around 70% of the nation’s staple food production.  

However, an inherent issues with these small farms, and Brazilian agriculture in general, is the under-developed state of Brazilian infrastructure.


Even though Brazil is currently producing large amounts of produce, and competing well on international trade markets, the sector is by no means working, or producing, to its full potential.  Weak infrastructure is a major constraint on the sectors ability to develop, as poor transports networks and agricultural services raise the cost and difficultly of everyday practices for stakeholders.



A key subject of concern is the state of Brazil’s transport routes, namely its roads. For soybean farmers in central regions, such as Mato Grosso, large sections of key roadways to ports and depots are unpaved and damaged. Not only does this increase the time of product transportation, but a recent study (3) found that approximately 0.3% of the state’s total soybean crop is lost out of the back of vehicles due to the poor highways. This equates to around 51,000 tonnes. Poor roads are decreasing the efficiency of transport, increasing costs for farmers, and limiting the ability of the sector to grow.

And it is not just the physical infrastructure that is seen as a developmental barrier for Brazilian Agriculture, as the sector continues to struggle with gaining access to reliable digital networks.



In modern farming, it is well understood that digital technologies are the future, as new, communicative machines are capable of carrying out agricultural practices with more efficiency and accuracy than ever before. However, accessing and utilizing these technologies requires dependable digital networks and internet connectivity. The IoT, precision farming techniques, and smart agricultural technologies, such as drones, rely on powerful computers as central control points for user-operation and data transfer. Without these systems in place, Brazilian farmers will not be able to utilize these technologies to their full potential, limiting the productivity and efficiency of their agricultural practices.


This lack of digital infrastructure is in part due to the sheer size of Brazil and sparsity of its population. Although 66.4% of Brazilians are internet users, connected individuals are clustered in coastal and urban regions, away from the main growing areas of Brazil (4). To connect the unconnected, there will need to be significant investment from the government and related stakeholders into the countries digital infrastructure, such as fiber cabling and 4G towers.

Even though Brazil is currently producing large amounts of produce, and competing well on international trade markets, the sector is by no means working, or producing, to its full potential.

Of course, the state of Brazil’s infrastructure in relation to agriculture is not completely negative. Ports in the south have seen a large amount of development, which has reduced bottle-necking issues with crop exports and imports, allowing farmers easier access to international markets. Plans are now in place, and currently in operation, to bring similar depots in the northern arc to similar standards. Work has also started on modernizing the main road systems in the north, as well as the idea of an Amazonian train network currently in development.


What is clear from the limitations of Brazil’s infrastructure at present, however, is that agriculture is an underutilized market, with plenty of undeveloped farms and land still to be brought into contemporary production standards. In the midst of political and social unrest, changes and improvements are likely to be slower than desired for stakeholders.


To address key agricultural issues, such as the above, Challenge Advisory, in collaboration with the Brazilian Government, have developed the Sustainable Intensification Summit series.A key point of engagement at 2017’s summit, will be looking into solutions for how new technologies and practices can be better integrated into Brazilian farming. This includes: digital technologies, robotics, mechanization, and low carbon tech. Underpinning all of this will be a need to think about the infrastructure to support these systems, and how this can be provided on a national scale.


This year’s event will be held in Campinas, Sao Paulo, with key stakeholders such as: Embrapa, MAPA, AproSoja and the OCB in attendance. Workshops and discussions will enable attendees to have their input in shaping the development of the sector, and to be a part of creating positive and sustainable changes for Brazil.


To find out more about the event, and register your interest, you can follow the link below, or email us at

Click to find out more about Sustainable Intensification 2017