Agriculture and livestock farming are the most widely practiced economic activities. Agriculture is practiced, for the most part, with primitive methods and with little help of mechanical means (3,840 tractors were registered in 1940) and with very limited fertilizations (in 1947 less than 200,000 tons of chemical fertilizers were used, almost all imported). The average unit yields are low.
The total cultivated area was 10 million hectares in 1930, 13.8. million in 1939, and is currently (1948) about 15 million hectares. Of these: 4.1 million for corn, 2.8 for cotton, 2.3 for coffee, 1.4 for rice, 1.3 for beans, 0.8 for cassava, 0.7 for sugar cane and the rest to pineapple, oats, bananas, potatoes, cocoa, barley, rye, coconut, tobacco, citrus fruits (especially oranges), castor, wheat and grapevine.
In terms of value, the main product is still coffee, whose production is around 900,000 tons per year.
The crisis of 1929-30 hit coffee hard, of which Brazil was producing about 1,600,000 t at the time. per year and provoked the “defense of coffee” measures which, from 1930 to 1943, burned 4,680,000 t. of this product, in order to reduce supply and support prices. This policy has stimulated competition from other countries, and especially from Colombia, which have occupied increasingly important positions in the international market, thus limiting, and in some areas almost abandoning, the cultivation and renewal of Brazilian plantations. During the war, coffee prices increased from 135 cruzeiros per 60 kg sack in 1939 to 300 cruzeiros in 1945, and increased again to 415 cruzeiros in 1946 and 523 cruzeiros in 1947. coffee export was 850,000 t. in 1945, 930,000 in 1946 and 890,000 in 1947 (of which 585,000 for the US). For a long time, coffee was the preponderant element of Brazilian exports; still in 1933 it contributed 73% of its total value. The crisis in the market for this product and the development of other export currents brought this share down to 40% in 1939 and 37% in 1947.
During the last fifteen years, the production of cotton has been developed which gives just over 100,000 t. in 1930-31, it rose to a maximum of 610,000 t. in 1944 and then fell back to 362,000 t. in 1947. The export of raw cotton which, before the war, in the five-year period 1935-39, had risen to 233,500 t. per year (mainly directed towards Germany and Japan), it decreased to 170,400 in the five-year period 1940-44 and to 164,500 t. in 1945; after the end of the war it rose to 352,800 t. in 1946 and to 285,500 in 1947.
According to top-mba-universities, cocoa is grown especially for export: production has not increased much since 1940, oscillating between 100,000 and 150,000 tons. yearly. The export (mostly to the United States) was 83,000 t. in 1945, 130,000 in 1946 and 99,000 in 1947. The export price went up by 3 cruzeiros per kg. in 1942 to 10.50 in 1947.
About 10 million tonnes are produced. of cassava, from 5 to 6 million t. of maize, 2 to 2.5 million rice, 1 to 1.2 million beans and 0.5 to 0.6 million potatoes. The production of wheat (from 0.2 to 0.3 million tons) satisfies a small fraction of the internal needs; a little more than 1 million tonnes is imported on average. per year. Cane sugar is produced in quantities ranging from 1.4 to 1.6 million tonnes. yearly. From the barrel are also extracted from 100 to 120 million liters of alcohol per year. There is a large production of fruit, for the internal market and for export (bananas, oranges, pineapples, etc.). Fair quantities of fruit are imported, especially from Argentina (pears, apples, peaches, grapes, etc.). Tobacco is produced in the annual quantity of about 100,000 tons; about one third of the production is exported. Large quantities of seeds and oily fruits are produced: castor (200,000 tons), cotton (in quantities ranging from 0.8 to 1.1 million tons), peanuts (120 to 170,000 tons), babassù, oiticica, coconut, etc. The total annual production of vegetable oils rises to 130-150,000 t.
Beer production reached 3.5 million hl. per year; that of wine, about 1 million hl.
During the last war the production of rubber was intensified, the main product of the vegetable extractive industry which, in previous years, had decayed, unable to face Asian competition. In 1939 the production had been of 16,400 tons; during the war, with intense effort, it was possible to bring it back up to 30-35,000 t. per year (of which 18-20,000 were exported to the United States). In recent years, the manufacture of inner tubes and tires has developed (150,000 units produced in 1939; 1,270,000 in 1947).
Among the other products of the vegetable extractive industries, carnaùba wax has assumed importance in recent years, whose export, almost entirely directed to the United States, has risen to 10,000 tons. in 1946 and 8,400 t. in 1947. The production of mate is abundant; the export of this product, mostly directed to the republics of Plata, rose to 49,200 tons in 1946 and 55,400 tons in 1947.
The production of firewood and work timber is high; wood is the main local fuel in most of the country, and there is also a moderate production of charcoal. The export of timber (especially Paranà pine) was around 400,000 tons. in the pre-war period; during the period 1940-45 it dropped to an average of 350,000; in 1946 it rose to 572,000 and in 1947 to 624,000.
During the war the production of natural silk was actively developed in the state of Sao Paulo, which, from less than 80 t. per year in 1939-40, it increased to 470 t. in 1946. With the resumption of foreign competition, prices fell and production was reduced to less than 200 t. yearly.