Brazil’s agribusiness splits on backing Bolsonaro amid rising tensions

Splits in Brazil’s agricultural hierarchy could be laid bare in the coming days after the country’s agribusiness entities went...

Splits in Brazil’s agricultural hierarchy could be laid bare in the coming days after the country’s agribusiness entities went public with their disagreements regarding support for President Jair Bolsonaro and his recent political agenda.

Calls for demonstrations at the upcoming national independence day holiday could act as flashpoints in a series of protests that are expected to be held on September 7.

At the end of August, a number of major Brazilian agribusinesses released a manifesto in defence of the democratic rule of law and condemning “radical adventures” – in a veiled reference to the president’s policies.

However, the powerful Mato Grosso soybean producers association Aprosoja MT has stated it will support a pro-Bolsonaro demonstration to be held on September 7.

The August 30 manifesto was signed by the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (Abag), Brazilian Tree Industry Association (Ibá), Brazilian Palm Oil Producers Association (Abrapalma), the herbicide lobby group National Union of Plant Defence Products Industry (Sindiveg), Brazilian Vegetable Oil Industries Association (Abiove) and CropLife Brazil.

In the text, the organizations affirmed that Brazil cannot present itself to the international community “as a society permanently under tension, in interminable crises or at risk of setbacks and institutional ruptures.”

“Brazil is much bigger than the image we have projected to the world. This is costing us dear and will take time to reverse,” the group said.

Although the manifesto did not name Bolsonaro, it was evident that the organization addressed him when they demanded from the country’s leaders a position that is up to Brazilian “grandeur”.

Producers and agribusiness have been important allies of the Brazilian president since the election, but amid a deepening economic and institutional crisis, it has become harder for companies and entities to publicly maintain support to the president.

The manifesto came after Bolsonaro and allies called for a demonstration on Brazil’s independence day, promoting radical agendas such as arming the population, challenging Supreme Court decisions, calling the electoral process in question, and minimizing the impact of Covid-19.

Further unrest came after a call from the deputy of the parliament’s lower chamber, Sergio Reis, in which he urged lorry drivers to invade the capital Brasilia and depose supreme court ministers “by force”.

Despite the controversy, producers are thought to remain broadly supportive of Bolsonaro, with several players supporting and taking part in the pro-government demonstrations.

Aprosoja MT, which represents soybean farmers in Brazil’s most important grain producer state Mato Grosso, said on August 31 that it will support pro-Bolsonaro events on Brazil’s independence day “institutionally” but not with resources.

The entity referred to it as a “patriotic and democratic event” and that it will support only “democratic agendas”.

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