Will Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro destroy Brazil’s coffee business if he wins re-election?

If you’re celebrating National Coffee Day in the United States, you probably have Brazil to thank for your morning (afternoon, evening) pick-me-up.

Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer and the United States’ primary source of coffee beans, will export 64.3 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee beans this year alone, representing over 30 percent of the global market.

The country dominates a multibillion-dollar industry (somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion, depending on the source) that is anticipated to expand by nearly 12 percent over the next three years.

What about other countries that produce coffee? Their success is contingent on Brazil’s bean harvest. If Brazil has a poor year of bean production, there will be more room in the market for growers from other nations.

“Is Brazil performing poorly or well? Federico Ceballos-Sierra, a coffee and rural development researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, grows coffee with his father on a small farm in Colombia. “That’s exactly how we know we’ll sell our harvest,” he said.

The coffee-producing world (and the coffee-drinking world) will be closely observing the results of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or Lula.

Ceballos-Sierra stated that the two politicians have “two opposing visions for agriculture in Brazil,” which could potentially alter the shape of Brazil’s robust coffee industry in the near future. Long-term, their divergent perspectives on environmental protection may impact the global coffee market, not just that of Brazil.

The industry of coffee
Bolsonaro is obsessed with business. During his presidency, he has favored large corporations over smaller farms and local growers. Ceballos-Sierra stated that when it comes to coffee cultivation, large-scale operations tend to be located on razed, flat land that, lacking a canopy for shade, forces large companies to use pesticides that are harmful to the environment. It is known as sun-grown coffee and grows much more quickly, allowing for greater production.

Lula, on the other hand, has championed support for smaller, local farmers, including Indigenous growers and farmers from communities built by formerly enslaved individuals; Bolsonaro, according to him, has ignored these demographics.

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