Launched in June this year to cover the 2021/2022 period, the current version of the Safra Plan provides for R$ 251.2 billion in financing for rural producers – an increase of 6.3% compared to the amount of the last edition of the program -, but it is lacking in terms of meeting the current needs of small farmers. This is what entities and workers in the sector claim, who complain about the policy’s lack of fitting to the context generated by the pandemic.
One of the main complaints concerns the funding ceiling for peasants with this profile, which remains at R$ 250,000. According to family farmer Maiquel Roberto Junges, 37, the value does not consider the current context of rising production costs.
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Junges works together with his brothers on a small property in the municipality of Não-Me-Toques, in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul, where the family produces milk, soy, corn, wheat and vegetables. The merchandise is sold both in a popular fair in the city and is sold to cooperatives and industries that use inputs for the production of various types.
In the wake of the worsening economic crisis, driven especially by the uncontrolled spread of the new coronavirus, the farmer says that the family has been facing a scenario of super-rise costs. The main highlight is fertilizer, whose ton used to cost R$1,700 in 2020 and now surpasses the R$4,000 mark.
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Maiquel says that, in this first half of 2021, she obtained three different financings from the Safra Plan to be able to pay for the work in the rural unit. The search for this type of policy is common in the lives of rural producers and usually occurs at different times.
In the case of the Gaucho, the first, in January, was R$ 35,000 to plant for cattle pasture; the second came in April, in the amount of R$ 40 thousand, and is aimed at planting wheat; the other, destined for corn and soybean plantations, came to the level of R$ 55,000. The first two were framed in the period of the previous edition of the Plano Safra and the last one already came within the current version of the policy.
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The program usually starts in July of one year and continues until June of the following year, when the federal government usually launches a new edition of the policy, which is periodic and has been in existence since 2003. Maiquel explains that the R$ 250,000 financing, the ceiling offered by the Bolsonaro government, it is insufficient for part of the properties. In the region where the Gaucho works, a small farmer, to be recognized as such, can produce in up to 80 hectares.
He disputes the government’s assessment that the funds foreseen for the 2021/2022 Harvest Plan would be sufficient for the sector’s needs, as the director of the Department of Credit and Information at the Ministry of Agriculture, Wilson Araújo, said during the launch of the new edition of politics at the end of June.
“The farmer takes numerous credits during the year. All those who exceed 40 hectares cannot plant all their land with official resources because the most you can plant with the R$ 250,000 [do Plano Safra] there are 40 hectares”.
Maiquel says that, as a side effect, the lack of better financing conditions and the increase in production costs caused a rise in prices for the final consumer. The problem exists across the country. Data updated by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in early July show that, between April and May, for example, food prices rose by an average of 1.48%.
The prices observed in May this year are 30.54% higher than in the same period last year, according to the institution.
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“We also pass on some production costs to the consumer. And what can be seen is that wage earners have less and less purchasing power, as other costs have also increased for them – water, telephone, electricity. He also always bargains to pay cheaper and, many times, we give in to help the population”, says Maiquel Junges.
The same problem has occurred with the farmer César Gondim, who lives in Tabuleiro do Norte, in Vale do Jaguaribe, in the interior of Ceará. It produces lemon, corn, meat and grass for cattle in the region, where there was a general increase in prices, as is the case for energy and inputs used in the property. The worker says that seeds, for example, registered an increase of about 25%. As a result of the new values, prices were passed on to the consumer.
“The at sign [cerca de 15 kg] of cattle cost between R$ 150 and R$ 180 before the pandemic. The value reached R$ 300 in the most critical periods of the pandemic and is now between R$ 250 and R$ 280”, exemplifies Gondim, who usually sells the product to local butchers.
“They complained about the price, but this increase came from the general increase, everything. The situation is really very difficult. Access to a bank became more complicated, everything became more difficult. Unfortunately, we are in this situation”, he vents.
Interest and technical assistance
The lack of greater promotion of the 2021/2022 Crop Plan for small farmers and the whole context that generates the rise in food prices have provoked a series of protests by popular entities. This is the case, for example, of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Contag) and the Federation of Workers in Family Farming (Fetraf).
Small producers also complain about the increase in interest rates provided for by the new edition of the Safra Plan, which were increased by 10% a year, on average. The sector entities point out that, despite being low, the high still harms workers with fewer resources, who cannot pay readjustments at this level.
The segment also complains of problems in the area of technical assistance, an activity in which the Bolsonaro government has been investing since last year in virtual assistance. The entities claim that most rural workers still do not have the structural conditions to access digital services.
The group has also been denouncing the lack of more resources for the area of technical assistance and rural extension, whose forecast is around R$ 81 million. The activity has already had funds in the order of R$ 600 million in Brazil. The problem was recently recognized by the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, who is responsible for coordinating the Safra Plan.
“The digital assistance will be that tool for us to be able to further maximize this technical assistance, without dispensing with the presence. We need resources, we have to work on the budget that will be voted on. We can get credit, but technical assistance takes longer, more dedication, more planning so that we can walk and do more and more”, said the representative at the debate to launch the policy, at the end of June.
“The resources that were announced are negligible and do not take into account the reality of family farming. Everyone knows that technical monitoring, technical assistance and rural extension are strategic so that farmers, with good monitoring, can have better conditions to produce”, relates Auri Junior, from Fretraf in Ceará.
Also coordinator of production and agrarian reform at Contraf Brasil – a confederation that brings together all Fetraf units –, the leader emphasizes that the lack of more robust policies for peasants “inevitably” harms Brazilian families due to high prices.
“If the government were injecting more resources into the bottom floor of agriculture, inflation would not be in this situation right now. What is lacking in Brazil is public policy that thinks about it, but it doesn’t have it. That’s why it’s been almost two years since family farming has been running out of hope”, laments Auri Junior.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo