Brazilian Biodiplomacy in Africa

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Brazilian Biodiplomacy in Africa
Brazilian Biodiplomacy
in Africa
The case of biofuels
Report by John Wilkinson for Actionaid within the Framework of the Project:
Impact of Biofuels on Food, Farmers and the Environment.
Rio de Janeiro, August, 2014.
Brazilian biofuels are primarily associated with ethanol derived from sugar-cane whereas in the US
ethanol is produced from corn, and, in the EU and China, wheat was initially the cereal of choice.
This difference in feedstock has been an important argument in Brazil´s presentation of its sugarcane ethanol as an economically and environmentally superior biofuel in addition to being less of a
threat to food security.
For those acquainted with Brazil´s history this positive image of its sugar-cane sector is
remarkable. In Brazilian literature, the “sugar baron” economy evokes colonial Brazil and large
plantations run on slave-labor in the Northeast of the country. For some three centuries it was the
main export earner before progressively ceding to coffee as the 19th century advanced and slavery
was replaced with waves of immigrant wage labor. By the 1920s, sugar´s share in exports had
shrunk to 1.4% (Ramos, 1999).
Brazil´s economic history is often viewed as a succession of cycles defined by the principal export
sector and within this narrative sugar disappears from view as coffee begins to dominate exports,
the more so since this shift was also identified with the transition from slavery to wage labor.
While, however, sugar declined in the Northeast, the sector was reborn in the Center-South
stimulated now by the domestic demand of a rapidly increasing urban, industrial population. As
Mintz (1985) has shown for Europe, sugar is second only to cereals as an energy source in the
urban diet. Leading plantations now became household names for refined sugar.
A third market opened up for the sugar sector as from the 1930s when President Vargas introduced
the mixing of anhydrous alcohol with gasoline. During the Second World War this reached a high of
42% falling to some 13% by the 1960s.
From the 1930s to the 1990s all the activities of the sugar sector – prices, labor, quotas from
independent sugar-cane suppliers, and regional participation in production (this latter protecting
the uncompetitive Northeaster sugar sector) – were tightly regulated by the Federal Government´s
Institute for Sugar and Alcohol (IAA). In the 1970s, the quota system was abandoned and the
sector underwent rapid concentration both in sugar factories and farms (Szmrecsányi, 1979).
Far from being marginalized, therefore, sugar was one of the most powerful agricultural sectors
when the Pro-alcohol Program was launched in the 70´s. The sector also benefitted from a first
class research network for the development of new varieties and the improvement of production
systems (PLANALÇÚCAR).
On the other hand, sugarcane production was notorious for the appalling conditions of manual
harvesting, based on informal recruiting schemes of migrant workers from the Northeast (Silva,
2013). This harvesting system required that the sugar-cane be previously burned to facilitate
manual cutting which led to serious problems of air pollution in neighboring towns and concomitant
respiratory illnesses (Lopes & Ribeiro, 2006).
The oil price shock of 1973 was the main stimulus to the launching of the Pro-Alcohol program
two years later and was enthusiastically received by the sugar-cane sector in a context of falling
international prices for sugar. In its first phase, the program introduced a blending regulation of
20-25% anhydrous ethanol for a rapidly expanding gasoline market. With the second oil price rise
in 1979, the all ethanol, (hydrous), car was introduced and by 1986, 90% of new cars were “all
ethanol” and 12 billion liters per year were being produced (Wilkinson & Herrera, 2010).
Sugar-cane production in São Paulo expanded rapidly in this period occupying areas until then
dedicated to orange groves, pasture for beef and dairy and a variety of other crops, in addition
to unused lands involving deforestation, provoking concern over the advance of sugar-cane
monoculture in the State. Concomitantly there was a huge increase in the number of temporary
workers and the emergence of labor struggles over the implementation of the “seven rows” system,
increasing workloads which had been previously based on a target of five rows of sugar cane.
Important strikes broke out in 1984-6 for basic workers´ rights and to contest the new productivity
targets (Mendes, 2007).
Rapidly increased production brought with it severe environmental problems in the form of the
by-product known as vinhaça. Initially discharged into the nearby rivers, research enabled its use
as fertilizer. Here again, however, excessive applications led to the contamination of underground
water sources.
Declining oil prices and improved export perspectives for sugar in the 90s led to shortages of
ethanol at the pump and confidence in the all ethanol car collapsed. By the end of the 90s,
a now deregulated sugar sector had increased sugar exports from 1 to 10 million tons, but
the production of all ethanol cars plummeted to 1% and the Pro-alcohol Program was ended.
Nevertheless, production of anhydrous ethanol continued with compulsory blending levels
oscillating between 18-25%. Imports of ethanol from the US made up for shortfalls in the
blending targets (Andrietta et al, 2007).
The years of the Pro-Alcohol were dominated by increases in production via incorporation of
new lands. At the same time, this was a period of more intense research in improving both
agricultural and industrial productivity. The Pro-Alcohol also provided a decisive stimulus for the
growth of the national capital goods industry which was able to produce state-of-the-arts turnkey
plants. The expansion of the sugar cane sector was overwhelmingly endogenous, dominated
by traditional plantation families. The pulverization of the sector was compensated by the
dominant role of the Cooperative Copersucar, which was central to the rapid dissemination of
the Proalcohol Program. Copersucar grouped together the leading players, made a significant
contribution to the development of technology and led the way in promoting exports during the
´90s (Goldemberg, 2008).
The launching of the flex car in 2003, able to run on both ethanol and gasoline, with the choice
being decided at the pump, provoked an extraordinary resurgence of ethanol production. Within
five years, 87% of new light vehicle sales were flex and ethanol overtook gasoline sales.
Car sales evolution by sort of fuel used
(Thousands of new cars)
Pure ethanol
Source: União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar (Unica).
(Source: Schutte, 2012)
Once again the rise in petrol prices provided a major stimulus. In addition, however, climate change now
occupied center stage with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, and Brazil became conscious of the
diplomatic gains to be made from its energy matrix. Although renewable energy accounted for only 14% of
global energy production, 44% of Brazil´s energy was derived from renewables of which no less than 15%
came from sugar-cane (MME, 2007). The Kyoto emissions reduction targets were seen as an important
stimulus to ethanol exports and both biodiesel and sugarcane-based bioelectricity offered the possibility for
accessing carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol (Lima,
2004; Meneguello & Alves de Castro, 2007)
2003 also saw the beginning of the first Lula government which positioned itself favorably with regard to
biofuels and Lula officially filled the first flex car with ethanol (a Gol, launched by Volkswagen). The first year
of the new government, however, was initially focused on macro-economic stability and the launching of the
Zero Hunger Program. It also had to negotiate a delicate balancing act between a strongly committed Ministry
of the Environment (MMA) and a Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA) dedicated to the promotion of
family farming, on the one hand, and a Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) headed by Roberto Rodrigues, a
leading representative of agribusiness, on the other.
Already in 2003, however, both the EU (European Biofuels Directive, EBD) and the US (Renewable Fuel
Standard, RFS) made formal commitments to biofuels and other major countries established blending targets
– India, Japan and China (HLPE/CFS, 2013). Brazil, with its sugar and ethanol markets now deregulated,
had been in frank recuperation as from 2000 (see Figure below) and was in a condition to respond to the new
demand created by the flex car.
GRAPH - Global production of Ethanol (1997 - 2003)
Global Production
Brazil Production
(Billion of liters)
Global Production
(Billion of liters)
Source: Plinio Mario Nastari. 2004.
With the flex car accounting for the overwhelming majority of new car sales ethanol production increased
sharply from 15 billion liters in 2003 to 25 billion liters by 2008-9. In addition, the formal commitments to
biofuels targets in the US, the EU, Japan and major emerging countries such as China and India opened
up the perspective of a global market for ethanol. Brazil´s sugar cane sector now became the privileged
object of domestic and foreign investment (GAIN, Report, 2013).
As from 2005, the BNDES dramatically increased its support for the sector, as can be seen in the graphic
below, reaching R$7.5 billion by 2008. The importance of this sector for the BNDES led to the creation of
a special Department of Biofuels in 2007 aim at aligning the Bank´s policy with the Federal Government´s
biofuels programs. At this time, some 96 projects for ethanol were being appreciated by the Department
involving R$11.3 billion. The BNDES operated with the perspective that by 2010 a hundred new ethanol
plants would be concluded producing a further eight billion liters. Its support covered all aspects of the
sector – industrial plants, engineering projects, capital goods purchases, bioelectricity, innovation, logistics
and infrastructure (Agência Brasil, 2007).
Source: BNDES.
* The General Price Index - Internal Availability (IGP-DI) was the indicator used to deflate the series, whose
base year was 2011.
From 2003 until the effects of the global financial crisis made themselves felt in 2009/10 Brazil´s sugar
cane sector underwent a profound transformation involving acquisitions, new green field investments
and the adoption of professional business models. Traditional firms in the sector became quoted
on the stock exchange and entered into strategic alliances. Cosan, the leading firm in the sector
acquired Exxon´s distribution network and Crystalev entered into a joint venture with Dow Chemical.
The Cooperative Copersucar restructured itself into a public company to confront the new competitive
climate. At the same time the global traders – Dreyfuss, Tereos, Cargill, Bunge and ADM moved
aggressively into the sector via acquisitions, partnerships and new investments. Brazil´s transnationals
– Petrobras and Odebrecht (a leading construction company with strong interests in Africa) similarly
acquired important stakes (Wilkinson & Herrera, 2010).
Brazil´s ethanol also attracted new actors from global investment funds, often headed by Brazilian
investors. Leading investors here included Sun Microsystems, AOL, Merril Lynch, Soros and Goldman
Sachs with a preference for green-field investments on the savanna frontier in Brazil´s central region.
Major countries committed to biofuels targets were also among the investors. China had a minor
participation in Cosan and initiated negotiations for large-scale projects in the State of Bahia both for
sugar and soy. Leading Indian firms, Bajaj Hindustan and Reliance Industries established a presence.
Japan, for its part, entered into negotiations for an ambitious 1000 kilometer ethanol pipeline to ensure
its import requirements. After an official visit in 2004 Japan proposed to make minority investments in 40
sugar mills to the value of US$8 billion to ensure supplies of ethanol (Gentile, 2008, Gordinho, 2010)
Overnight a previously pulverized sector (over 300 mills) based almost exclusively on national capital
suffered a process of significant concentration (some 40 firms controlling 50% of production by 2008)
and transnationalisation (20% by 2010).
The adoption of biofuels targets by the US, the EU, Japan and leading emerging countries led to the
projection of a global ethanol market, which, on the assumption of the adoption of 10% blending, was
calculated at 140 billion liters (Leite et al 2009). In spite of the dynamism of its domestic market, Brazil
shows a marked increase in exports as from 2003 (see below).
An indication of the scale of investments being considered at this time can be gauged from a report
presented by the BNDES in 2007 which speaks of the need for 100 new sugar mills by 2010, each with a
capacity of 2 million tons of sugar which would produce an extra 8 billion liters of ethanol (Bastos, 2007).
At this time, the BNDES was supporting 68 investment projects for sugar mills to the tune of R$8.9
billion, in addition to 21 projects for the cogeneration of bioelectricity (a byproduct from the burning of the
bagasse) involving R$1.4 billion, and seven operations in the capital market to the value of R$1 billion
(Milanez et al, 2012). According to UNICA, there were 86 new distilleries in construction in 2007 involving
investments of US$14 billion.
GRAPH - Ethanol exportation evolution (Billion of liters)
Source: MDIC (2012)
The Lula government showed its support for ethanol already in 2003 as we have mentioned in
relation to the launching of the flex car. The following year, in a visit to South Korea, Lula laid a special
emphasis on biofuels. In his speech on this visit he argued: “Along with biodiesel, ethanol will allow
South Korea to diversify its sources of energy and at the same time reduce gas emissions”. With the
exception of the blending regulation, however, ethanol was largely independent of the government
by the beginning of the new millennium. The liberalization of trade and pricing was accompanied by
a profound restructuring of the sector whose most notable result was the creation of UNICA, a new
association of sugar firms which grouped together 110 of the more than 300 firms in the sector and was
to become a decisive arm in the global promotion of ethanol (www.unica.com.br).
In its first years, the Government´s main concern with regard to biofuels was the construction of a
bio-diesel market. Here it was not a question of regulating an activity already in operation but that of
creating a new market fully dependent on public policies (Abramovay & Magalhaes, 2007, Flexor,
2007). Not that the idea of a bio-diesel market did not have its pre-history. Already in the previous
government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso proposals had been elaborated for the development of
biodiesel using soy as its principal raw material. With increasing competition from palm oil soy had
been steadily losing its share of the vegetable oils market and biodiesel presented itself as an ideal
alternative (Tiburcio, 2011).
The central innovation proposal by the Lula government was to take advantage of biodiesel´s flexibility
with regard to feed stocks and gear the program to crops traditionally associated with family farming
production systems, depending on the region. The goal therefore was to develop a biofuels program
with social inclusion by providing a guaranteed cash crop market for the family farming sector. Palm-oil
was to be the principal feed stock in the Northern region, castor oil in the Northeast, and a mixture of
soy and other oils in the South,(Diniz, 2010).
The program was launched in December 2004 and the biofuels market was created to guarantee a
minimum participation of feedstock supplies from the family farming sector – 10% in the North and the
Center-West, and 30% in the Northeast and the South. A firm´s eligibility depends on authorization
by the National Petroleum Authority (ANP) which oversees the program. Access to the market is
by auction and participants must be in possession of a Social Certificate awarded by the Ministry of
Agrarian Development (MDA), revocable if the firm does not comply with the requirements for family
farm participation. 2% compulsory blending (B2) was introduced in 2008 and was rapidly increased by
stages to B5 in January, 2010 (Kato, 2012). In 2014, the scaled adoption of B6 and B7 was agreed on.
The Program´s goal was to benefit 200.000 small farmers once fully operational. However, in spite of
huge efforts and the increasing involvement of Petrobras Biofuels, it proved impossible to anchor the
program on the regional oil crops proposed and by 2009 soy accounted for 78% and animal fats 18% of
total biodiesel feedstock. Firms could use soy or animal fats and maintain the Social Certificate if they
could show that they had bought the required percentage of accepted feedstock from family farmers
participating in the program through cooperatives. If the feedstock, as in the case of the Northeast,
were castor oil, this would be traded in alternative markets and substituted for soy in the production of
biodiesel. By the end of 2008, the MDA identified the participation of some 37,000 family farmers, far
short of the 200,000 target (Diniz & Favareto, 2012).
In spite of these anomalies, setbacks were identified as teething problems and the Biodiesel Program
was presented as a key complement to the Zero Hunger Program, later-reformulated as the Family
Grant Program. Whether explicitly designed as such or not, the Biodiesel Program also served to
counter the criticism that Brazil´s biofuels program benefitted only large-scale farmers and was
characterized by unacceptable working conditions (Silva, 2013).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE), or Itamaraty, as it is known familiarly, has a long tradition of diplomacy,
but with the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government a more presidential form of diplomacy emerged as
Brazil tried to affirm its interests in a rapidly changing world. Presidential diplomacy was to assume a central
position during the Lula governments.
Already in 2003 with the “Declaration of Brasília”, India, South Africa and Brazil, via the IBSA Dialogue Forum,
identified their common interests in consolidating a developing country approach to global questions. The
BRICS group of emerging countries had already been identified as a new global force in 2001 reinforcing
the sense of common interests among the emerging Southern economies. This attribution would be formally
endorsed by the countries concerned in the first of what would become annual Summit meetings in 2009, in
Russia, (Morazán, Knoke, Knoblauch & Schafer, 2012).
Brazil was, at the same time, assuming a leading role in the G20 and was asserting itself in the WTO where in
2004 it would win an action against the US on cotton subsidies which also placed it as the champion of African
cotton producing countries (Schnepf, 2013).
Biofuels, as we have seen, were at the center of international concerns in 2003 with the blending
targets adopted both by the US (RFS) and the EU (EBD). While energy concerns predominated
in the case of the US and carbon emissions assumed greater visibility in the EU, the idea of clean
energy became a central issue in the response to the Kyoto Protocol (Meneguello & Alves de
Castro, 2007). Brazil presented itself as a model given its use of hydroelectric sources of energy
and the importance of renewable biomass in its energy matrix, responsible in this period for
15% of total energy production (MME, 2010). The co-generation of bio-electricity from biomass
was projected to substantially increase this sector´s contribution to renewable energy. Biofuels,
therefore, became central to Brazil´s diplomacy in these forums (Jacomo, 2012).
The early years of the new millennium saw a continuous surge in the sugar cane sector and in
the production of ethanol. Petroleum prices showed a sharp increase and ethanol prices became
very competitive even without subsidies. The flex car provided perspectives for rapidly increasing
domestic demand and the US, the EU and Japan all began to provide export markets for ethanol,
on the basis of targets which implied continuous medium to long term demand. By 2005, Brazil
was exporting 2.5 billion liters of ethanol which would increase to more than 5 billion by 2007.
GRAPH - Sugarcane area and production.
Growth: 84%
CAGR: 7%
Tonnes (million)
Growth: 64%
CAGR: 6%
Hectares (million)
Harvested area
Source: Prepared by Markestrat from Conab’s data.
(Source: Neves, 2014)
for Between 2004 and 2008, Brazil signed some 22 cooperation agreements on biofuels, largely in
the wake of Presidential visits (Moraes & Mattos, 2012). In 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Relations
(MRE) decided on the creation of a Division New and Renewable Energy Resources, motivated, in
the words of its director Simões, by
“the priority given by President Lula to the creation of an effective international market
for biofuels. The innumerous missions undertaken by President Lula and the increasing
interest of almost all international partners in biofuels required that Itamaraty develop
an area for the institutional treatment of this question” (2008).
It is clear here that Presidential diplomacy was the driving force behind the Government´s promotion of
biofuels both as a policy to be adopted in international forums and as a global market to be created.
The most decisive move in this direction was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoE) signed with the US
Bush Administration in 2007 (US Department of State, 2007). This agreement covered joint cooperation in
research, the promotion of ethanol in third countries of Latin America, and multilateral initiatives to promote a
global ethanol market (definition of technical standards). The Bush administration had just launched its more
ambitious increase in biofuels targets to 36 billion gallons by 2022 which opened up important opportunities for
imports from Latin American countries with special trade agreements with the US (Hollander, 2010). Simões
hailed this agreement as “..more than a document, it´s a point of convergence in the relationship that is denser
and more intense than anything we´ve seen in the last 20 or 30 years. Brazil will profit, the United States will
profit, and so will third world countries” (Andrews & Rohter, 2007 apud Hollander, 2010). The agreement
provoked critical response at many levels – from the United National Environmental Program (UNEP), from the
consortium of South American NGOs, Forum of Resistance to Agribusiness, and from countries (El Salvador,
Peru) targeted by new ethanol investments (McDonald, 2012, Hollander, 2010).
Brazil: Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements on Biofuels
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Netherlands
The Hage, April 11, 2008
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and West African
Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA)
Ouagadougou, October 15, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Burkina Faso
Ouagadougou, October 15, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Denmark
Copenhagen, September 13, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Sweden
Stockholm, September 11, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Mozambique
Brasília, september 6, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Panama
Panama, August 10, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Mexico
Mexico City, August 6, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Chile
Santiago, April 26, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and EUA
São Paulo, March 9, 2007
Memorandum of Understanding between Argentina, Brazil,
Paraguay and Venezuela
Brasilia, December 15, 2006
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and China
Peking, September 30, 2005
Memorandum of Understanding between India, Brazil and South Africa
Brasilia, September 13, 2006
Protocol of Intentions between Brazil and Belize
Guatemala City, September 13, 2005
Protocol of Intentions between Brazil and Costa Rica
Guatemala City, September 13, 2005
Protocol of Intentions between Brazil and El Salvador
Guatemala City, September 13, 2005
Protocol of Intentions between Brazil and Panama
Guatemala City, September 13, 2005
Protocol of Intentions between Brazil and Guiana
Guatemala City, September 13, 2005
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Jamaica
Kingston, May 16, 2005
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Venezuela (Ethanol)
Caracas, February 14, 2005
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Venezuela (Biodiesel)
Caracas, February 14, 2005
Memorandum of Understanding between Brazil and Ecuador
Quito, August 25, 2004
(Source: DAI-MRE, 2010 apud Johnson, 2010)
Brazil was seen to be strategic in the promotion of such markets given its experience with sugar
cane ethanol. Brazil, for its part, in addition to a direct interest in the US market, recognized that
a global market required a diversification of producer countries. The potential for as many as 100
or more countries to produce ethanol from sugar cane was used as a contrast to the tight global
oligopoly governing petroleum markets. The Bush administration, in its turn, was keen to provide a
counterweight to Venezuela´s petroleum power in the region.
A similarly important agreement was signed two years later at the Third European Union-Brazil
Summit. The joint statement:
“stressed the commitment of the EU and Brazil to work together in a joint initiative for
the sustainable development of bioenergy in Africa, focusing on biofuels and bioelectricity. They look forward to their intensified cooperation in this field, together with
the African Union Commission, as a first step towards broader action on energy in
third countries. They note that developing bio-energy on a socially, environmentally
and economically sustainable basis can give an important contribution to tackling
climate change, fighting poverty, and promoting access to modern forms of energy,
such as for transport, cooking fuels and electricity for rural and urban areas. The
initiative envisages the elaboration of country studies analyzing the potential for
the production and development of sustainable bioenergy, as well as its impact on
poverty reduction, in interested countries and regional economic communities in
Africa; private and public investment will be encouraged aiming at the implementation
of bioenergy projects; a Coordination Group will examine the modalities of this
initiative and its work program.” (2009)
Here again the EU and Brazil had mutual interests in the development of biofuels in Africa. The
EU had increased its renewable fuels target to 10% by 2020 and recognized that meeting these
targets would require imports, and in addition that these imports would have to be produced with
levels of sustainability which would justify their use in substitution to fossil fuels. For Brazil this
represented further support towards the development of a global ethanol market and also, to the
extent that Brazilian ethanol investments in Africa would be stimulated by this cooperation, the
perspective of privileged access to the European market (Seibert, 2012).
By the middle of this first decade the honeymoon with biofuels was wearing thin. The US and
EU targets provoked growing criticism from civil society groups who argued that this increased
demand would lead to an acceleration in deforestation and further threats to biodiversity. The
use of corn for US ethanol raised the issue of impacts on global agricultural commodity and
basic foodstuffs prices. In addition, the economic efficiency and the advantages of ethanol for
reducing carbon emissions were called in question (HLPE/CFS, 2013). The Brazilian sugar cane
sector became particularly vulnerable given the prevalence of harsh working conditions and the
noxious effects of burning the sugar cane prior to harvest. The tortilla riots in Mexico in early
2007 against the rise in corn prices brought the “food versus fuel” debate to the center of the
global agenda (Actionaid, 2012).
The Brazilian sugar cane sector, its national agricultural research system, EMBRAPA, and Brazilian
biofuel diplomacy all reacted vigorously to defend the virtues of sugar cane ethanol which was now
distinguished from the “bad” ethanol produced from corn. It was in this period that Marcos Jank, the
head of the agribusiness research arm on international trade (ICONE) became President of the sugar
sector´s main representative body, UNICA. ICONE, for its part, dedicated itself to the defense of
Brazil´s ethanol. It focused on the economic and carbon efficiency of sugar cane ethanol and defended
this sector against the increasingly influential argument that ethanol was unable to pass these criteria
if indirect land use effects (ILUC) were taken into account. ICONE´s success in these undertakings
led to Brazil´s sugar cane ethanol being classified as an “advanced” fuel within the US biofuels targets
opening up the perspective of an important extra export market to the US (Nassar et al 2009).
ICONE for its part took advantage of this international pressure to win support for important
reforms and the acceptance of new regulatory restrictions by a sector until then very traditionalist
and resistant to change. A Zoning Law was accepted which excluded sugar cane production from
the Amazon, the Pantanal wetlands, and areas of rich natural biodiversity. The mechanization
of the harvest was accelerated and the ban on pre-harvest burning of the sugar cane brought
forward. UNICA established offices in Washington and Brussels and, in a very effective publicity
campaign, insisted on the advantages of ethanol produced from sugar cane, focusing particularly
on the relatively small areas under cultivation, the adoption of mechanization, the high productivity
and the distance of producer regions from the Amazon (Wilkinson & Herrera, 2012).
GRAPH - Participation by type of sugarcane crop in Central-South
Harvested sugarcane percentage
Mechanical harvesting
Manual harvesting
Source: Prepared by Markestrat from CTC and UNICA’s data.
(Source: Neves, 2014)
In addition to being recognized as an “advanced” fuel by the US, Brazilian sugar cane ethanol was
successfully differentiated from ethanol produced by primary food crops and awarded “exceptional”
status. Itamaraty and Presidential diplomacy based itself from this point onwards on this exceptionality
of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol which was widely endorsed by leading NGOs and international bodies,
(World Bank, FAO).
At this time a UNICAMP study argued that Brazil could produce enough ethanol to permit a blending
of 5% and even 10% of global gasoline with ethanol (Leite et al, 2009). The study calculated that this
would require an extra 17 million hectares for the 5% target. The agro-ecological zoning carried out by
EMBRAPA identified 64.7 million hectares as suitable for sugar cane which would allow for the 10%
global target to be met without encroaching on the excluded biomes. These conclusions underpinned
Government strategy and were complemented by a concerted effort to promote biofuels in Latin America
and above all Africa (Seibert, 2012).
Brazil´s Memorandum of Understanding with the EUA, in addition to the promotion of common
standards and norms to enable the development of a global market, led to the realization of joint viability
studies for sugar cane ethanol in Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe
and Mozambique. The Central American region was also the object of Presidential diplomacy. An
extemporary discourse by Lula at a Business Forum on Ethanol, Biodiesel, Cement, Gypsum, Soy and
Aluminum in Jamaica, 2007 reveals the centrality of ethanol for the Brazilian government. In opening his
address, Lula greets “the Brazilian businessmen who have accompanied me already for a long time in
this pilgrimage around the world”. And then continues: “In fact, Prime Minister, talking about biofuels is
for me a passion”. The discourse is in fact an impassioned defense of biofuels, contesting NGOs claim
that they are incompatible with food security and presenting ethanol as a key development strategy.
Lula concludes: “These are the reasons, Prime Minister, why I travel the world speaking equally to those
who like biofuels and those who do not… This is the principal reason why I am on the go more than a
‘travelling salesman’.”(Silva, 2007).
Brazil´s ethanol and biofuels diplomacy coincides with a new phase in this country´s international
cooperation (Chicava, Duran, Cabral, Shankland, Buckley, Lixia & Yue, 2013, Rizet, 2012). From
being a recipient Brazil has become a donor country and consciously promotes a new style
“cooperation for development” model based on South-South partnership (Santander, 2011, Rossi,
2013). The African continent becomes the principal focus of this cooperation and by the middle of
the 2000s funding for Africa matched that for Latin America and was growing much more quickly
(Alves, 2013, Leite, Suyama & Waisbich, 2013).
Ethanol and biofuels have been a crucial component of this cooperation. As we have seen, the
tripartite agreement between Brazil, the EU and the African Union Commission focused the
promotion of technical cooperation for development on Mozambique given the similarity of its vast
savanna regions with those of Brazil, its ports and strategic location for both European and Asian
markets (Brunet, 2013).
At the same time, during the two Lula Governments there were 29 official visits to African
countries involving business delegations and with biofuels and sugar cane ethanol high on
the agenda. At regional level, an agreement was reached with the West African Economic
and Monetary Union (UEMOA), which groups eight West African countries, for the promotion
of biofuels (Ouédraogo, 2010). Seminars have been organized in Africa on biofuels with the
presence of INMETRO and the FGV, and the Federal University of Santa Catarina for the
development of viability studies (Cabral, 2011).
The BNDES launched a Public Tender for viability studies for the production of biofuels in the
Western African countries which make up the UEMOA to implement the Technical Cooperation
Agreement signed between the BNDES and the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the
realization of these studies in the UEMOA countries (PortalÁfrica).
The Ministry of Agriculture, MAPA, has promoted agro-ecological zoning for biofuels in Botswana,
South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. In 2006, an office of
EMBRAPA was installed in Ghana with the ambition at that time to develop cooperation on a
continental scale. Biofuels were a central concern and the major exception to its policy of being
“demand driven”, responding to proposals arising from African governments and research centers.
While ethanol was the predominant focus, EMBRAPA also promoted jatropha and biodiesel, a key
demand of the European Union (Agroanalysis, 2011, De Pierro, 2013).
The BNDES has been the key instrument for promoting outward investment in biofuels both
in Latin America and Africa (Rosa, 2013). Although infrastructure, mining and petroleum have
absorbed most resources, BNDES has financed ethanol projects in a number of African countries
(Estadão, 16/11/2013).
In Angola it has financed Odebrecht in association with the State firm Sonango and a private firm
Damer (Sol, 2013). The firm in question, Companhia de Bioenergia de Angola (Biocom) begins
operation in 2014. With some 36.000 hectares, 7.000 have already been planted and will be ready
for processing in September, 2014, when production will be 18.000 tons of sugar and 3.000 cubic
meters of ethanol. At full capacity it will produce 260.000 tons of sugar and 30 million liters of
ethanol. Already the Brazilian Public Ministry has been notified of the slave like working conditions
of the Brazilian sugar cane workers at this plant (Vieira, 2014).
Angola was the first country which benefitted from BNDES financing beginning in 2007. Since
then five credit lines have been approved to the tune of US$5.2 billion for 86 operations mostly to
restore the country´s infrastructure (Magossi, 2013, Osava, 2013)).
Dedini, Brazil´s largest capital goods firm for the sugar cane sector, has received financing for
the construction of a plant with the Kenana Sugar Company in the Sudan. Sudan was among the
African countries whose debt with Brazil has been waived to facilitate financing by the BNDES,
particularly in the areas of construction and agribusiness (Biofuels Digest, September, 2010).
In addition, the BNDES has signed an agreement with the Ethiopian Development Bank and is
financing ethanol investment in the country. In Mozambique, which will now be discussed in more
detail below, BNDES has financed a biofuels project with Petrobras in association with the State
firm Petromoc and the Companhia de Sena (BNDES, 2012).
Brazil´s interests in Mozambique extend beyond biofuels and were consolidated from the first days
of this country´s independence in the ´70s. Mozambique has attracted worldwide attention as the
country with the largest agricultural savanna frontier, estimated at some 36 million hectares. Brazil
and Japan are currently collaborating to repeat the “cerrados” experience, opening this region to
grains/oil/energy production, and a reported 6 million hectares were offered to Brazilian farmers
for investments. Various studies in Europe highlighted Mozambique as the most favorable African
country for biofuels investments given these natural advantages which also include access to
water and deep water port facilities (Batidzirai et al, 2006).
The principal stimulus to investments was provided by the increase in the EU renewable fuels
target to 10% blending by 2020. Large scale projects based on foreign investments were
reported to be underway and rapidly became the object of critical analysis, categorized as part
of the “land grab” phenomenon, (Adelson, 2011, Clements & Fernandez, 2013). Other studies
focused rather on the role of the Mozambique government and local elites in promoting these
foreign investments (Fairbairn, 2011).
The EU, for its part, demanded that biofuels entering its market obey sustainable criteria. In line
with this orientation and with Brazilian collaboration, Mozambique carried out an agro-ecological
zoning study for biofuels which identified only 7 million hectares suitable for land-based economic
activities, of which 3 million were judged appropriate for agricultural investments. All lands under
formalized land use and benefits rights, where local communities possess what is known as a
“DUAT”, were excluded. DUAT lands, however, are the most sought after, and investments tend to
favor areas which have good infrastructure and access to resources rather than lands given priority
within the agro-ecological zoning (Waterhouse, Lauriciano & Norfolk, 2010).
At the same time, the Mozambique Government elaborated a Rural Development Strategy in
2007, and contracted a study on biofuels in 2008 (Ministry of Agriculture, 2008). This was followed
in 2009 with the publication of a specific Policy and Strategy for Biofuels in 2009 (Boletim da
Republica, 2009) to be guided by the goals of energy security, sustainable development and the
reduction of fossil fuel imports. In 2012, Mozambique drafted its own biofuels sustainability criteria.
The importance of Mozambique for biofuels in Africa is evidenced in the organization of one of the
2014 GBEP meetings in this country.
A variety of factors led to a slowdown and a downsizing in investment projects – the realities
of Mozambique´s land structure and particularly conflicts with local communities (Mello, 2013;
the regulatory framework introduced by the Mozambique government (Nhantumbo & Salamão,
2010); and above all the world financial crisis which dried up more speculative investment
funds. Individual investments such as Sun Biofuels and ambitious Projects such as the ProCana collapsed, in the context of opposition from increasingly organized peasant groups and
international NGOs (Milgroom, 2013, Borras, Fig & Monsalve, 2011). A detailed investigation of
the conditions under which investments are negotiated with local communities has concluded
that the latters´ participation is reduced to that of debating compensation measures (Waterhouse,
Lauriciano & Norfolk, 2010).
A study, carried out in 2008, (Schutte, 2009), and whose results are presented below, identified
only 5 sugar cane ethanol and 12 biodiesel projects, of notably more modest proportions than
originally envisaged. Most of these investments were motivated by the EU biofuels market which
would itself be called in question in the light of the food price hikes of 2008/9 (Grethe, Deppermann
& Marquardt, 2013). The current proposal by the EU to freeze food crop biofuels targets at a
blending of 6.25% would severely depress the demand for imports and has diminished the rhythm
of new proposals (HLPE/CFS, 2013, GAIN, 2013).
Bioethanol projects
Biodiesel projects
Land formally requested (ha)
Total investment (US$)
Employment (jobs)
Between 8,925 and 11,956
Between 25,093 and 30,264
Employment per requested ha
Between 0.14 and 0.18
Between 0.14 and 0.17
Average investment per
requested hectare (US$)
Between 34,018 and
Between 0.14 and
Main crop
Average estimated yields
113.3 cane ha-1
2.64 t Jatropha oil ha-1
Mostly EU
Mostly EU
Analysis of the 17 formal biofuel investment proposals (in collaboration with CEPAGRI)
Another study (Nhantumbo & Salomão, 2010), carried out at the same time, identified more
bioethanol and fewer biodiesel projects involving a much larger land area and with total
investments calculated as over US$3 billion. (see Table below). In a personal communication the
authors of the study were told that 25 projects were under consideration by June 2009.
Number Area (ha) Number
Area (ha)
Coconut oil, jatropha, palm
oil, sugarcane
Sabie, Petromoc, Maragra
Sugarcane, jatropha, sweet
ProCana, Agrihold,
Grynberg Petroleum
Jatropha, coconut oil
Geralco, SOMOIL, AfrecoJetro, Agrihold, C3, Deulco
Jatropha, sugarcane,
palm oil
Africa, Petro-Buzi, Principle
Sugarcane, jatropha
Principle Energy,
Jatropha, coconut oil, sweet
Grown Energy Zambezia,
N’zou Project Ltd
Soja oil, jatropha, palm oil,
Mj3,Lagoas, C.I. Monapo
Sweet sorghum, sugarcane,
Haha Project, SEKAB or
(Source: Schutte, 2012)
A further study carried out in 2013 (Locke & Henley), whose results are presented in the two following
Tables, confirms the still incipient nature of biofuels production in Mozambique and the more
modest scale of existing projects. This study reports that in 2010 there were 48 registered projects
of which 23 had land under cultivation. Since then, however the effects of the financial crisis and
the changed perspectives with regard to the biofuels market have led to a decline in production and
to the cancelation of projects. As the Table below indicates, although 209,327 hectares have been
authorized for biofuel feed stocks only 6,110 hectares are currently being cultivated.
Overall land use for biofuel feedstock production in Mozambique of companies authorised
to operate
Ethanol feedstock
Biodiesel feedstock
Planned area for cultivation (ha)
Total area authorised (ha)
Current area under cultivation (ha)
Sources: Data gathered during this scoping exercise in January 2013 principally from the Centre for Agricultural
Promotion (CEPAGRI), The National Directote for New and Renewable Energies (DNER), and the Ministry for
coordination of Environmental Affairs (MICOA). Other sources consulted are listed in Aneex 1. Note: This table includes
projects that currently have authorisation to operate (i.e with a land use license). Projects that have had their land use
licenses revoked are not included.
Of the 48 projects registered only 18 were formally in operation in 2013. In some cases, licenses
were revoked while in others, projects were simply discontinued. Four of these 18 projects have
suspended operations although their licenses have not been revoked. Only one firm, Cleanstar
Mozambique, was at the production stage in 2013, and was using cassava as feedstock.
Status of biofuel projects operating in Mozambique
Producing for
Jatropha (12)
Active but not
Producing for
other purposes/
other crops
Still in planning
Sun Biofuels
Biofuel Industries;
Inveragro; SAB
Deluco Emvest,
Sugarcane (5)
Envalor; Galp
AgroIndustrial SA;
Principle Energy Buzi
Grown Energy
Cassava (1)
*Luambala Jatropha also has sunflower and soy production.
(Sources: CEPAGRI, DNER, MICOA and others listed in Annex 1)
In addition to the promotion of biofuels for export, whose future as we have seen is now uncertain,
Mozambique, which imports 100% of its fuel needs, has introduced compulsory blending, 10 % in
the case of gasoline (E10) and 3% for biodiesel (BS). Its domestic fuel market, however, is very
limited and unlikely to influence investors motivated by the expectations of the EU biofuels targets.
Brazilian investors, on the other hand, have seen this as an opportunity (Nascimento, 2012, Mello,
2013). Petrobras has announced plans to construct a biofuels plant to supply this demand. In
addition Petrobras via the Brazilian Guarani company has a majority stake in the Companhia de
Sena´s sugar plant in Mozambique. Odebrecht, through its subsidiary ETH Bioenergia, is similarly
proposing to invest in an ethanol plant. Cosan, Brazil´s leading sugar/ethanol is understood to be
interested in investing in Mozambique, as also is Copersucar. Brazil has also been involved in the
production of biodiesel in Mozambique, both through the provision of jatropha seeds, through the
promotion of the social inclusion aspects of its Biodiesel Program and in direct investments, again
via Petrobras (Garcia, Kato & Fontes, 2012, Schlessinger, 2012)).
While many of the agreements reached on biofuels in the years 2006-09 have developed a
dynamic of their own and continue to generate cooperation and investment activities, Brazilian
biofuels diplomacy suffered a radical inflection as from 2008-09. Many factors converged towards
this shift. Brazil discovered the deep sea “pre-Sal” reserves of petroleum in 2007 and production
began in 2008 (BBC, 2013). It was possible to envisage an alliance with ethanol via future exports
of blended gasoline, but the immediate effect was to focus on the transformation of Brazil into a
leading petroleum exporter.
The sugar cane sector, for its part, which had been the privileged object of investments and
had experienced years of unprecedented growth in the first half of the decade, was the sector
most affected by the world financial crisis (Forero, 2014). Many firms found themselves unable
to honor their debts and became easy prey to acquisitions by both domestic and foreign capital.
This latter shifted its focus from new greenfield investments to the safer option of buying up
indebted firms. Production stagnated through lack of new investments and productivity declined
as the plantation crops were not renewed (Wilkinson & Herrera, 2010). The face of the industry
was changed overnight as many of the leading firms were bought by foreign capital, as shown in
the Table below:
Ranking Capacidade de moagem em MMt e Internacionalização
Ranking 2005/2006
Ranking 2010/2011
Cosan/Shell (Raízen)
Vale do Rosário
LDC-Sev (Louis Dreyfus)
São Martinho
Brazil/ USA/ Japanese
Guarani Tereos/Petrobras
French/ Brazil
Lincoln Junqueira
Irmões Biagi
Sta. Terezinha
Lincoln Junqueira
Sta. Terezinha
Sta. Terezinha
São Martinho/Petrobras
Fonte: Itaú BBA. Elaboração própria.
(Fonte: Schutte, 2012)
The sugar cane sector found itself unable to meet the demand for ethanol and its prices became
uncompetitive with gasoline at the pump as world petroleum prices began to fall, (Batista, 2013).
The crisis was such that Brazil found itself having to import the “bad” ethanol from the US to meet
its blending requirements1.
1 U.S. corn ethanol has been widely condemned as inefficient from economic, energy and carbon emission standpoints (HLPE,
2013). Even in the U.S, it is not accepted as an advanced fuel. Brazil´s ethanol diplomacy involved successfully distinguishing Brazil´s
sugarcane ethanol as “good” ethanol in contract to the “bad” ethanol produced from corn. Brazil´s arguments have been widely
endorsed and its ethanol is accepted as an advanced fuel in the U.S. which provides it with a privileged window for exports to fulfil the
U.S. biofuels targets. Lack of investments, combined with prolonged droughts, has led to shortages of ethanol in Brazil during the interharvest months leading to imports from the U.S. to fulfil Brazil´s blending obligations..
GRAPH - Ethanol sales (hydrated and anhydrous) and type A gas (disregards the anhydrous ethanol added to it).
Gas A
Liters (Billion)
Source: ANP.
(Source: apud Neves & Trombin (2014))
This situation was aggravated by the new Dilma government´s policy of holding down domestic
gasoline prices to dampen inflationary pressures. In addition, the new government took its distance
from the sugar cane sector and showed itself unwilling to come to the sector´s rescue. From being
an integral part of Brazil´s biofuels diplomacy, UNICA, the sector´s business association, became
isolated and its President, Marcos Jank resigned (Estado de São Paulo, 09/05/2014). Coming out
of the crisis, the sector itself, as the Table above makes clear, had assumed a radically different
“transnationalized” profile.
The perspectives for the development of a world biofuels market also became less convincing as
the EU moved to lower the food crop participation in the blending mandate and US corn ethanol
was already hitting the blending wall of 10% and the ceiling set for the use of first generation
biofuels at 15 billion gallons, (GAIN, 2013). Other countries too are revising their targets as food
security concerns undermine the legitimacy of first generation food crops as feedstock and second
generation cellulose technology refuses to come on line as projected2 . Brazil´s crusading image,
has anyway been tarnished by the resort to imports of “bad” ethanol from the US and the, now
accepted, dominance of soy in the biodiesel program3.
Indebtedness, lack of investment in agriculture, and repeated prolonged droughts continue
to characterize the sector. The BNDES has opened up new lines of credit to stimulate
innovation and the renovation of sugar-cane plantations which may contribute to restoring
competitiveness (BNDES, 2014). Nevertheless, the current government has subordinated the
energy sector as a whole to the control of inflation, although it has introduced some measures
to alleviate costs and expand the domestic market (Estado de São Paulo, 12/06/2014). The
decisive market challenge over the next decade will be provided by the expansion of domestic
demand as the flex vehicle makes up an increasing proportion of Brazil´s light vehicle fleet
(Folha de São Paulo, 11/08/2014). It is likely that Brazil will reassert itself as the world´s
most important exporter but this market will in all likelihood be basically limited to the existing
markets created in the US and the EU4.
2 O etanol dos EUA obtido a partir do milho tem sido amplamente condenado como ineficiente do ponto de vista econômico,
energético e no que tange às emissões de carbono (HLPE, 2013). Mesmo nos EUA, não é classificado como combustível avançado.
A diplomacia brasileira do etanol foi bem sucedida ao distinguir o etanol da cana-de-açúcar como etanol “bom”, em contraste com o
etanol “ruim” produzido a partir do milho. Os argumentos do Brasil foram amplamente endossados e seu etanol foi classificado como
combustível avançado nos EUA, o que lhe fornece uma janela privilegiada para exportações voltadas ao cumprimento das metas de
biocombustíveis dos EUA. A falta de investimentos, combinada com secas prolongadas, tem levado à escassez do etanol no Brasil
durante os meses de entresafra, levando o país a importar dos EUA para cumprir o teor obrigatório da mistura.
3 O Brasil hoje produz etanol a partir do mlho, e o BNDES apoia as usinas flex, que usam tanto o milho quanto a cana-de-açúcar
(Milanez et al, 2014). A APROSOJA, a associação de produtores de soja, sustenta que todas as usinas na região centro-oeste usarão o
milho (Folha de São Paulo, 16/06/2014). Tal mudança irá, de forma mais veemente, por em dúvida a superioridade do etanol brasileiro,
limitando suas exportações como combustível avançado a um número restrito de usinas de cana-de-açúcar certificadas.
4 Brazil is now producing ethanol from corn and the BNDES is supporting flex plants which can use either corn or sugar cane (Milanez
et al, 2014). APROSOJA, the soybean producers´ association argues that all plants in the Center-West will begin to use corn (Folha de
São Paulo, 16/06/2014). Such a development will further call in question the superiority of Brazilian ethanol, limiting its exports as an
advanced fuel to a limited number of certified sugarcane plants.
In such a situation it is unlikely that there will be a new edition of Brazil´s biofuels diplomacy which
in retrospect can be seen to have ridden on a wave created by a very unique conjuncture, whose
components have now all disappeared. On the other hand, Africa, and particularly, Mozambique,
continues to represent a strategic platform for agribusiness access to Asian markets. In a recent
paper, Thaler (2013) cites the director of Mozambique´s Investment Promotion Center, Mahomed
Rafik who envisages as the result of his country´s Free trade agreement with China, a sugar cane
project in which “a South African company in partnership with a Mozambican company, and with
the raw material being processed by a Brazilian company, may gain access to the Chinese market,
because the product will be regarded as Mozambican.”
Whether the product in question will be biofuels or grains, and whether the specific advantage will
be free trade agreements or Mozambique´s privileged location and conditions, some such scenario
is certain to be a key factor in the future plans of Brazilian agribusiness. Large scale agricultural
investments, therefore, will continue to present a decisive challenge to Mozambique´s rural
development whether on the basis of biofuels or other strategic agricultural commodities.
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