Antonio Andrade will later on Monday take on one of the
biggest jobs in world farming, as Brazil's agriculture minister, but lacks the
powers to tackle the sector's biggest problem – infrastructure bottlenecks.
Mr Andrade will at a ceremony in the farm ministry formerly take
over as minister of agriculture, livestock and food supply from his
predecessor, Mendes Ribeiro Filho, who has suffered health problems since
assuming the post two years ago.
Mr Ribeiro later in 2011 underwent surgery to treat a
recurrent brain tumour.
The post hands Mr Andrade oversight of a Brazilian
agriculture sector which ranks as the world's top exporter of chicken, coffee
and sugar, is expected to take top position in soybean shipments too, and is
also a world force in beef, corn and cotton.
'Nothing ever seems
to get finished'
However, the top setback troubling farmers represents the
difficulties and costs of getting crops to ports, a problem which lies with the
ministry of transport.
"What farmers would really like is to get railroads built,
improved roads," Kory Melby, the Brazil-based agriculture consultant, said.
"We have been waiting four or five years for a lot of
projects to get completed. A lot of projects are announced, but nothing ever
seems to get finished."
While Brazil has announced a series of road, rail and
airport projects, many are involved in meeting needs for hosting the Olympic
Games and World Cup rather than agriculture, and a number even of these schemes
have been halted thanks to corruption allegations.
Brazil's existing infrastructure has choked on the country's
increasing agricultural productivity, which has included hefty rises in cane, corn
and coffee output last year, while the country is now well through what is
expected to be a record soybean harvest.
In Mato Grosso, the main soybean growing state, it can take
a week to deliver grain to one of the three rail terminals in the south east,
even before the crop gets anywhere near port.
In Parana, served by the port of Paranagua, it costs some
$R8-9 per sack, equivalent to $1.80-2.00 a bushel, to move corn from western
farms to docks, with bills far bigger for transporting from inland states,
according to crop scout Michael Cordonnier at Soybean & Corn advisor.
The difficulties are blamed for turning some buyers to other
exporters, such as Argentina or the US for soybeans.
In the US, Richard Feltes, at broker RJ O'Brien, on Monday
flagged a "steadily-increasing Brazil soy line-up" of vessels queuing to load
up, with the delay estimated at 11m tonnes in volume terms, and 55-60 days in
'Best he could'
Mr Ribeiro had done the "best he could given the political
environment" in Brazil, Mr Melby said, referring to the difficulty of progressing
Farmers have gained support including an extension until
2015 of a programme of cheap loans for machinery purchases.
Mr Andrade "has a long history of involvement in Brazilian
agriculture", Soybean & Corn advisor said, noting that Soybean & Corn advisor,
noting that in Brazil's Congress he has been a member of the agricultural committee,
the Mines and Energy Committee and a special commission on agroindustry and
Mr Andrade said after his appointment was announced by Dilma
Rousseff, the Brazilian president: "May God bless our work."