Wednesday – February 7
Non-farm Commercial Stop #7
We left the hotel at 8 a.m. and headed for the town of Sidrolandia. The city is about 40 miles south-southwest of Campo Grande. It has a population of 23,000. As we drove along, the local tour guide said that about ? of the Pantanal is in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
Mato Grosso do Sul was all part of the state of Mato Grosso until about 22 years ago. The two states have good relations now, but a dispute caused the two areas to divide. do Sul means "of the south" or Mato Grosso of the south. This state has about 2 million people whereas Mato Grosso has a population of about 3_ million. About 25% of Mato Grosso do Sul is in the Pantanal. The Pantanal is 180 to 300 kilometers from Campo Grande.
Maracaju is the next town south of Sidrolandia, and a large settlement of Dutch is located there.
The weather is not as hot in Campo Grande as it is in Cuiaba. Campo Grande is south of Cuiaba about like Atlanta is to Chicago. It doesn’t seem like we flew that far south, but the states are really large. Temperature will be 35° C to 40° C (95° F to 104° F) in this state, but it is not as humid as Mato Grosso. There are no Indians in the Pantanal, but there are 50,000 Indians in the state. About 15 miles south of Campo Grande we saw several really poor housing areas along the highway. These people are squatters, and the areas around their "houses" were surprisingly clean. The government has a program that gives the squatter a small amount of hectares if he will move to the farm and farm the land. The acreage is not large enough for the squatters to make a decent living, and it doesn’t look like the program is very successful.
We arrived in Sidrolandia where the altitude is 400 meters (1,312 feet) above seal level. We met the mayor at his office in city hall. The mayor is elected every 4 years. The city has a 10-member vereador, which would be similar to our county council. They make the local laws and the mayor has veto power. The mayor is in charge of the entire county, not just the city. Thus, he was anxious to go with us to the farm visit in his county. He was quite knowledgeable about area agriculture because he also owns a farm in the county.
He said the area produces soya, rice, corn, cattle and fish. The area has a very fertile soil. There are 12 million hectares available for farming and 1.7 million are planted. If one purchases 1,000 hectares, 20% must be kept in reserve. He said if a U.S. citizen buys land and then decides to sell at a later time, that he can take all his money back to the U.S.
This area can support 3 to 4 cows per hectare with top quality pastures. Average is one cow per hectare. Cargill is a big player in the area. There is also a large chicken processor in the town that exports to Europe and Asia.
We left the mayor’s office and started our ride to the first farm visit of the day. The mayor was the guide for the area. I thought it was amusing that during the ride to the first farm, he had 6 cell phone calls. The road we drove on is the dividing area as to where the water drains. On one side, the water goes to the Parana River and on the other the water goes to the Pantanal. This would be similar to the U.S. continental divide.
Again, we saw several large grain terminals along the road to the farm.
Farm Visit #10
We arrived at this 3,300 hectare (8,154 acres) farm about 9:30 a.m. There was not as much discussion about technical inputs at this stop because we were about full of statistical information. However, this was one of the most impressive farms we visited throughout the entire trip. The manager is the son of the man that owns the farm. The father is more or less an absentee owner because he lives and works in another area of the state. The pictures of the buildings, equipment, the fishponds, and the cattle tell more about this place. The son (manager) took us to the several soybeans and cornfields, and there are several pictures of these on the CD. We drove to a large cattle pasture. Three cowboys rounded up several hundred heads of cattle. This was very exciting to see the herd come toward us. (See pictures.) The pictures cannot include the tension I experienced as the cattle approached. I was sure they would spoke and take off in all directions. But the cowboys continued to work the cattle toward us. Finally, the cattle were no more than a few feet across the fence from us.
Practically all the cattle in Brazil that we saw are a breed called Nelore. They are white with a small hump just behind the neck. They are a pure strain that originated in India. The temperature was in the high 90s and very humid. What most amazed me was that the cattle were not panting or breathing hard after the big drive across the field. They simply stood around and looked at us like, when are these people going to get on the bus so we can go back to grazing. If these cattle had been Hereford or Angus, I know from personal experience, that a number of them would have died from the heat. The three cowboys came up to the fence and to our surprise; one was a girl probably no more than 12 years old.
We also saw fish growing ponds on this farm. This was a very large project and is similar to the Mississippi catfish farms. The fish-growing project is very specialized and an unusual enterprise. I do not believe it is typical for most of the area farms.
On the way back to Sidrolandia, the mayor made a point to let us know that there is no mad cow disease in Brazil. He asked us, "how you say when cow wants bull." We answered that she was in heat. He said, "Only mad cows they have is when cow in heat and there are no bulls."
It was about 12:30 p.m. when we arrived back in Sidrolandia. Once again, we had another big barbecue that lasted a good hour and a half.
After lunch we went to a school at the edge of town. This is a school for kids from an economically depressed area. We saw the kids do handicrafts, playing soccer and various other summer time school projects. The mayor’s wife heads the school program. This was a great stop and change of pace after all the soybeans and commercial stops.
This online exclusive is brought to you by Soybean Digest
For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see: www.kitt-travel.com