Monday, October 3, 2011

Brazil as a Rice-Producing Nation - Part 1

Flavors of Brazil is full of recipes that include rice - not surprising at all, since most Brazilians eat the grain daily and have done so since Portuguese colonial times. Rice has a role in every regional cuisine in Brazil and is eaten across all the economic and social strata of Brazilian society - the maid in an industrial magnate's villa eats her own rice after serving it to her employer and his family, the middle-class working mother eats rice during her lunch break at work while her children eat it in a school lunch program and the urban poor who inhabit the slums of Brazil's big cities often eat it and nothing else besides beans for days at a time.

All added up, that's a lot of rice. Millions of tons of it every year. Recent statistics from UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ) tell an interesting story about the cultivation and consumption of rice in Brazil and around the world. Brazil is the ninth-largest rice producing nation in the world, and the largest producer outside the traditional West and East Asian "rice bowl", where 90% of the world's crop is planted. Brazil's total production in 2009-2010 was 10,198,900 metric tonnes which means it produced just under 2% of the world's rice crop. By way of comparison, China's crop, the world's largest, was 166,417,000 metric tonnes, accounting for 32.7% of the world's crop. Brazil is the only non-Asian country to feature in the top-ten list of rice producing countries. The amount of rice grown in the USA places it just outside the top-ten list.

These statistics show that Brazil is a significant producer of rice, but you have to look elsewhere, at statistics of per capita consumption, to get an idea of the importance of rice to the Brazilian diet. The data provided by UNCTAD divides the world into three rice consumption models, each with vastly differing numbers for per capita consumption. The first model is called  the Asian model, and in this group of countries typical annual consumption of rice, per capita, is over 80 kgs (or 175 lbs). In this group you find China with per capita consumption of 90 kgs (218 lbs), Indonesia with 150 kgs (330 lbs) and world-leader Myanmar with a staggering 200 kgs (440 lbs) annual per capita consumption. Brazil's per capita consumption is far lower, and the Brazilian model is called the Sub-tropical model by UNCTAD. Nations in this group are mostly Latin-American and African and annual consumption in the group is between 30 and 60 kilos. According to UNCTAD Brazilian consumption is 45 kgs (just about 100 lbs) annually per person, putting it in the mid-range of this group. Other examples of the Sub-tropical model are Colombia with annual consumption of 40 kgs (88 lbs) and the Ivory Coast with 60 kgs (132 lbs). The third UNCTAD model is called the Western model, and in this group annual per capita consumption is under 10 kgs (22 lbs) per year. In this group you find nations such as the USA, where people annually eat 9 kgs (20 lbs) and France, where only 4 kgs (9 lbs) of rice is consumed. The range between the models and between food cultures is colossal - residents of Myanmar, on average, eat 50 times as much rice as the French.

If you mathematically compare the size of the Brazil's annual rice crop with its annual consumption, it quickly becomes clear that Brazil doesn't produce enough rice to meet its domestic needs. About 10% of the rice consumed in Brazil every year is imported, mostly from other Latin American countries and from the USA. Today Uruguay and Argentina together supply about 85% of Brazil's imported rice. Brazil imports virtually no Asian rice, with the exception of specialty rices such as sushi rice from Japan. Although as recently as the 1980s Brazil as a rice-exporting nation, it is now firmly in the the rice-importing group of countries and accounts for 5% of total world imports.

In the next post onFlavors of Brazil, we'll look at Brazilian rice production - where it is produced, what types of cultivation models exist and what kind of rice in grown. Then we'll get back to the more culinary side of Brazilian rice, with a bunch of Brazilian recipes featuring the country's most important grain.

No comments:

Post a Comment