Promoting Brazilian interests abroad since 1995. Editor: Carlos de Paula
Sponsored by LEGAL TRANSLATION SYSTEMS
Edited by Carlos de Paula, translator, writer and historian based in Miami
ã De Paula Publishing, 2013
Sponsored by LEGAL TRANSLATION SYSTEMS
The information on this site is provided free of charge, and should not be construed as a referral or endorsement. Thus, the publisher is fully exempt of any liability pertaining to any business done with the listed companies, under the laws of any country.
Coffee's significance as a Brazilian export product is historically relevant, although coffee, today represents a relatively low percentage of Brazil's exports. There was a time when coffee revenues basically comprised almost 75% of Brazil's foreign reserves. Although Brazilian coffee is not longer considered the best coffee in the world, Brazil is still the top producer and exporter in the world. Much of what is sold as Italian or Swedish coffee is, in actuality, a blend that does include Brazilian coffee.
THE HISTORY OF COFFEE IN BRAZIL
Coffee was brought to Brazil from the Guyanas, in the early 1700’s, by a man called Francisco de Melo Palheta. The story that is told is that Palheta went to Cayenne with the specific of bringing the plant to Brazil, and befriended the city’s governor. He brought with him a little plant, that was first planed in Para, in the North of Brazil, in 1727. The product was initially consumed domestically, but by the next century, it became an internationally desirable product.
It so happens that coffee settled better in the cooler Southeast region, than in the North. This, of course, change the fortunes in Brazil. In the first 300 years of Brazilian history, the main Brazilian export products were produced in the Northeast (sugarcane), coastal areas from the Northeast to Rio (pau-brasil), gold and precious stones (Minas Gerais) and cattle (Minas Gerais). Eventually, coffee made it down to the Rio de Janeiro province, where it was widely planted in the Tijuca forest, to Angra dos Reis and Parati. All this changed, as Brazil’s cash crop of the moment took really well to the Sao Paulo rich soil, and Brazil became the top producer of this commodity worldwide.
As a result, the Sao Paulo province went from a somewhat secondary area of the country, to the major export producer in the country. The state, and the city of Sao Paulo became extremely wealthy, and the paulistas used their wealth to go effect, transforming the city and the State into an industrial powerhouse. By the time coffee had become Brazil’s major commodity, slavery was on the way out in Brazil, and millions of immigrants were brought into Sao Paulo, by the State government, to look after the plantations. This further helped Sao Paulo’s economy, as these immigrants brought with them technology, a different work ethic and much desire to succeed.
The production shift, from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo, also shifted the prominence of Rio’s port to Santos, and transformation of Sao Paulo into the country’s major financial center. The effects of it can be seen today, as Sao Paulo accounts for well over 50% of the country’s GNP. Initially, coffee was planted in the Paraiba valley, eventually heading towards the interior of the State. As a result, many railroads were built, which further enhanced Sao Paulo’s positioning for the future.
For the largest part of the 20th century, coffee was Brazil’s major cash crop. Governments did not like that reliance on a single product, which not only brought vulnerability to the country, also shifted political power in Sao Paulo’s side. As a result, the policy in the country was to diversify, and eventually coffee lost its relative importance as major foreign currency generator. However, the federal government was also interested in the foreign currency brought into the country by coffee exporters, so coffee was actively promoted overseas, by an agency called Brazilian Coffee Institute. Some historians, however, believe that this Institute was primarily created to cartelize coffee, leaving power in the hands of a few lucky ones, and that eventually it caused Brazilian coffee’s image problem in overseas markets. The Institute itself is long defunct. Nowadays, Colombian coffee, to name just one, has a better image than Brazil’s, in spite of the fact that Brazilian coffee is just as flavorful and good quality as it was 50 or 60 years ago.
Old coffee money has also shifted alliances, and many of the old producing families now concentrate on other cash crops, such as oranges and soybeans, or have altogether left agriculture, to go into banking, manufacturing and services. Coffee plantation also depletes the soil of certain nutrients, and eventually, Sao Paulo (as well as Parana) lost its status as main producing area. Nowadays, much of the Brazilian coffee hauls from the States of Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.
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