Brazil suffering from economic meltdown

by Bryan Salvage
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FATIMA DO SUL, Brazil — Grain and beef prices in Brazil have plummeted in recent months. What’s more, demand has also plunged for Brazilian beef, coffee and soy, according to The Associated Press. Dozens of slaughterhouses hit by the credit crunch in recent months have shut their doors in both Mato Grosso do Sul and the neighboring agricultural state of Mato Grosso, putting thousands of meat cutters out of work.

No one expected such a sudden drop from the agribusiness boom that sent Brazilian land prices skyrocketing and attracted many American and Argentine investors looking to snap up farmland just before the meltdown last fall. The economic crisis even is starting to hurt the previously high popularity ratings for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Farmers are angry at his claims that the country won't be hit as hard by the meltdown as Europe and the United States.

While economists predict Brazil's economy won't expand at all this year or will contract, Mr. Silva's administration in March predicted 2% growth but just reduced the forecast to 1.2% — figures that Fatima do Sul residents call fantasy.

Rancher and soy farmer Alberto Dalben, who heads Fatima do Sul's association of farmers, said ranchers previously were able to buy three cows to raise after selling one to the slaughterhouse. Now they get less than two.

Mr. Dalben says he may reduce his soy acreage and increase the size of his cattle pastures on his 2,270 acres because raising cows requires less investment and work than soy, though the returns are often lower.

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