SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) — Brazil’s farmers experienced an export-led bonanza in 2018, with soybean sales reaching a record amid global trade jitters and rising coffee exports, driven by strong demand from buyers like the United States and Germany.
Soybean growers in Brazil, already the world’s largest exporter of the oilseeds, sold about 83.8 million tonnes last year in global markets, up 23.1 percent from 2017, according to foreign commerce data for 2018 released by Brazil’s government.
Brazil’s largest soybean buyer was China, which remains embroiled in a trade war with the United States that hampered the ability of U.S. growers to compete with their Brazilian rivals.
In May, Brazilian soybean exports reached an all-time monthly record of 12.35 million tonnes, the data showed, as the U.S.-China trade war escalated at the height of Brazil’s soybean export season.
Brazil’s farm export strength confirms the country’s reliance on agriculture and agribusiness as a motor for growth, as this sector contributes to roughly a fourth of the nation’s gross domestic product in a year.
Heated demand from United States and Germany also propped up Brazilian coffee producers, with local farmers selling 30.4 million 60-kilogram bags of the bean in 2018.
Brazilian corn exports fell by 18.3 percent to 23.9 million tonnes as new truck freight rules made transport costs more expensive, the data showed.
Brazilian sugar exports fell as Brazilian mills directed more sugar cane to ethanol production to the detriment of the sweetener, whose prices are at historically lows.
According to the trade data, Brazil’s raw sugar exports fell by 21.5 percent to 18.3 million tonnes last year while there was a 42.2 percent drop on refined sugar sales, to 3.1 million tonnes.