“Among the 10 largest rice producers, Brazil emits methane gas the least, representing 0.5% of the emissions in world rice production”
Carolina Matos is an export manager at the Brazilian Rice Industry Association – Abiarroz and coordinator of the International Trade working group of the Women Inside Trade network. Matos was a policy and industry analyst at the National Confederation of Industry, graduated in international relations from Uniceub, with an MBA in trade and international business from FGV.
AgriBrasilis – What is the status of rice exports and imports in Brazil? What is expected for 2023?
Carolina Matos – Brazilian rice exports had a better performance in 2022, when comparing the last 5 years, with US$ 657.5 million and a little more than 2 million tonnes sold abroad.
Despite the increase being driven by increased exports of paddy rice, processed rice continued to represent the majority of exports of the product (52.4%). Highlight for exports of brown rice, that increased 200% compared to the average of the last 5 years.
For 2023, we had a smaller rice crop in Brazil, reducing the volume that should be exported. At the same time, we have a greater international demand for the product because of the reduction of harvests in large producing countries, especially in Asia, opening up more opportunities for the diversification of Brazilian exports.
AgriBrasilis – Who are our commercial partners? What new markets should be opened?
Carolina Matos – The main Brazilian exports destinations of processed rice in 2022 were Senegal, Cuba and Peru – together, they represented 50% of exports. The processed product was exported to 9 new markets, notably Honduras and El Salvador, and recorded a considerable increase in sales to Algeria, Portugal and Spain – increases of 17,124%, 13,751% and 1,073% between 2021 and 2022, respectively.
In 2023 we saw the opening of a large rice consumer market: Mexico. The country has eliminated 20% import tariffs for white rice by December 31, 2023 to curb inflation in the country. Within the scope of Brazilian Rice, a project by Abiarroz and ApexBrasil to intensify exports of processed rice, we are still working to eliminate barriers in Colombia, Peru and Nigeria and open up the Chinese market.
AgriBrasilis – Why are global rice stocks falling and what are the consequences of this process?
Carolina Matos – Rice farming is greatly affected by climate change. Currently we realize that the excess and lack of rain in different regions of the world, especially in Asia and the Middle East, have been considerably affecting rice production and, consequently, implying the supply of the product and intensifying the consumption of stocks.
Rice is considered by some to be a villain for sustainable development because it is a major emitter of methane gas. However, rice production in Brazil, the 10th largest rice producer in the world and the largest outside Asia, has been an ally in sustainable development and should be considered as an example to be followed by rice producing countries because of the factors below:
- Among the 10 largest rice producers, Brazil emits methane gas the least, representing 0.5% of the emissions in world rice production;
- Methane emissions from rice production in Brazil dropped 37.2% between 2010 and 2019, a percentage higher than the global commitment to reduce methane emissions;
- The world’s main rice producers (China, India and Bangladesh) increased their share of methane gas emissions from rice production between 2010 and 2019.
Such results were made possible by a set of practices in the chain. The main one is the use of rice husk residue, largely responsible for methane gas emissions, depending on how it is discarded.
The alternatives developed by the rice industry for conscious disposal of the matter consist of burning the husk to generate energy for the rice dryers and thermal energy for the parboiling process. Also, companies are already generating electricity from burning the husk, reducing the energy bill of industries and contributing to the development of small towns, especially in the State of Rio Grande do Sul.
The ash from burning rice husks is being used to manufacture bricks, silica, cement and tires.
AgriBrasilis – Processed rice exports reach only 40% of national capacity. What is the role of trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers in this context? What measures should be taken to increase this index?
Carolina Matos – We have to take into account that Brazil is also a large consumer of rice, so it is natural that most of the national capacity is turned to the domestic market.
With regard to barriers, the first is faced within Brazil itself, given that exports of processed rice are burdened by Funrural, harming the competitiveness of our product. When marketing the cereal to the industry, the farmer has no way of assessing whether the product will be destined for export or for the domestic market.
At the international level, the main barrier is still tariffs. According to data from the World Trade Organization, the average tariff applied to the product is 18.8%, making our product more expensive abroad. This can be remedied by expanding the network of trade agreements in Brazil, especially in the Americas, with agreements with the United States, Mexico and Central American countries, in addition to the conclusion of the Mercosur-EU agreement, that will bring about a certain opening of the market with quotas.
Another factor that hinders access to markets is the non-harmonization of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) with the standards established by CODEX Alimentarius. The MRLs represent the maximum amount of pesticide residues allowed in food. CODEX Alimentarius, within the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), promotes studies and meetings with the various member countries for the establishment of MRLs for food. However, there is still a very large disparity between the MRLs adopted, especially in European countries, that means that industries have to adapt the product to be exported according to the buying country.