Ukraine calls for “solidarity” from Brazil, condemnation to Russia

Ukraine’s chargé d’affaires in Brazil, Anatoliy Tkach, demanded an “official expression of solidarity” of the Brazilian government with Kiev and the country’s condemnation of Russia’s “aggression” against its territory.

“We are still waiting for the official expression of solidarity [from the Brazilian government] along with messages in favor of [the Russians] ceasing their aggression,” Mr. Tkach, the most senior Ukrainian diplomat in Brasília, told reporters. “In personal contacts with Brazilian diplomats, we are hearing this solidarity.”

The Ukrainian diplomat’s remarks came moments after the release of a note from Brazil’s Foreign Ministry calling for “the immediate suspension of hostilities and the beginning of negotiations conducive to a diplomatic solution to the issue […] and taking into account the legitimate security interests of all parties involved and the protection of the civilian population.”

The target of a Russian attack by land, sea and air since the early hours of Thursday, however, Ukraine has shown that it expects a more forceful manifestation from the Brazilian government against Moscow.

In the interview, via videoconference, Mr. Tkach mentioned at least four other times this expectation.

“We are in contact with Brazilian authorities and we are expecting Brazil to condemn this Russian attack on Ukraine,” he said. “What we expect from all countries is the condemnation of the attack and help to Ukraine,” he continued, explaining that the country needs both humanitarian and financial aid, fuel, food and armaments.

“We expect the Brazilian government to speak out and condemn this Russian aggression,” he said.

At another point, also asked about the Brazilian position, he replied, “Right now we need strong signals to convince Russia to back down and cease hostilities. [We need] condemnation of Russia’s actions.”

The diplomat then said that Ukraine would like the international community to levy sanctions against Moscow.

Asked what kind of sanctions Brazil could apply, he said, “First, we need a strong signal against aggression.”

Last week, President Jair Bolsonaro was in Moscow for a visit that displeased the United States in particular. In a statement, the White House even said that Brazil seems to be “on the other side of where the global community stands.”

Mr. Tkach said that the Ukrainian government even expressed to the Foreign Ministry the desire that President Bolsonaro also visit Kiev last week, to “balance” the visit.

“We were hoping at that moment that the president of Brazil would visit Ukraine,” he said, adding that there had been talks for a visit of Mr. Bolsonaro to the country since 2019.

In Moscow, Mr. Bolsonaro also expressed “solidarity” with Russia. The diplomat was asked whether this displeased Ukraine.

“We do not know in what context [Mr. Bolsonaro] expressed solidarity. But we do know that during the visit the Brazilian president expressed a desire for a peaceful solution,” he said. “Putin stated [to Mr. Bolsonaro] that he was working for a peaceful solution. But Ukraine knows that the word of the Russian president is worth nothing.”

According to Mr. Tkach, the country has been prepared since 2014 for a “Russian aggression,” it just didn’t know exactly when it would occur. He further stated that there are currently 200,000 Russian troops on the borders with Ukraine and recommended that all Ukrainian citizens who are outside the country stay where they are.

According to him, “before the Russian aggression, massive cyberattacks against websites of the Ukrainian authorities took place.” And he said that the goal of Russian “aggression” is “to seize Ukrainian territory and establish control of the occupation.”

“This is war. It is an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations,” he said. “We are making all diplomatic efforts to end this aggression as soon as possible.”

On another front, also in Brasília, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, Douglas Koneff, called for unity and firmness on the part of democratic nations against Russia’s “threat” to the “basic principles” of international law.

“Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and internationally recognized borders is an unprovoked and unjustified attempt to upend the basic principles of international law,” Mr. Koneff said during a news conference.

“We must stand firm and united against such a threat, which violates not only European security, but the security of people across the world. We must remain united to support Ukraine, and the right of all sovereign nations to choose their own paths, free from the threat of coercion, subversion or invasion.”

Mr. Koneff is the top representative of American diplomacy in Brazil since the departure of former ambassador Todd Chapman, who retired in August last year and has not yet been replaced. Democratic activist Elizabeth Bagley has already been nominated by President Joe Biden, but has yet to be approved by the Senate.

As the chargé d’affaires recalled, respect for the territorial integrity of all nations is at the root of the international order. “The U.S. continues to believe that diplomacy is the way for nations to resolve differences. Together with the international community and democratic nations everywhere, we clearly and firmly call for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” he said.

In contrast to the main leaders of the West, who immediately condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Jair Bolsonaro remained silent Thursday about the Russian attacks. At the moment that bombings were hitting several regions of the Eastern European country, the Brazilian president went to São Paulo to participate in a motorcycle rally and construction inaugurations. In the evening, when he learned that Vice President Hamilton Mourão had said that Brazil did not agree with the invasion, he discredited the vice president and emphasized that the country’s position is up to the president.

“Article 84 of the Constitution says that the one who speaks on this matter is the president. And the president’s name is Jair Messias Bolsonaro. And that’s it. So, with all due respect to this person who said this, he is talking about something that should not, that is not within his competence,” he complained, during a live broadcast on social media.

Alongside Chancellor Carlos França in the broadcast, President Bolsonaro reiterated what he had said before the worsening of the crisis, advocating peace. However, he avoided opining on the Russian attack.

“We want peace, we traveled in peace to Russia, we made exceptional contact with President Putin, we settled the issue of fertilizers for Brazil. We are dependent on fertilizers from Russia and Belarus,” he said, mentioning the trip last week. “And the most important country in the world is called Brazil, I am president of Brazil. We will do everything in our power for peace. So the one who is talking about these issues is called Jair Messias Bolsonaro, no one else is talking. Whoever is talking is taking a stab at what is not his place.”

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Bolsonaro did not believe in war in Ukraine during travel to Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro shake hands after a joint news conference following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 — Foto: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro shake hands after a joint news conference following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 — Foto: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

President Jair Bolsonaro traveled to Moscow last week without believing an armed conflict would occur on Ukrainian territory, despite several warnings raised in the international community in the weeks leading up to the visit.

At the Planalto Palace and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, known as Itamaraty, the feeling was that Russia would not go ahead with the idea of invading Ukraine because of the high economic cost of deploying troops and possible sanctions against the country ruled by Vladimir Putin, sources told Valor.

Contrary to what was expected in Brasilia, however, the situation has escalated dramatically in recent days, until the bombings and incursions of the Russians in Ukraine, by land, sea and air this Thursday. Not even the tightening of sanctions against Moscow, announced by several countries throughout the day, made Mr. Putin back down.

If the possibility of a war is no longer a surprise, it is also true that the Brazilian government bet until the last moment on a solution through diplomatic channels – something that not even Ukraine or the United States believed in.

“We always hope for a peaceful solution. But sometimes war happens. That’s how it is,” lamented a senior source in Brasília.

Although for Brazil the war in Ukraine came as a surprise, the Brazilian government received several warnings in recent months, especially from the United States, about the trip. The fear was that the Brazilian president would show alignment with Mr. Putin.

At Itamaraty, there was an effort to “depoliticize” the trip and demonstrate that the objectives of the Brazilian delegation in Moscow were merely commercial.

The agenda had two main highlights: facilitate imports of fertilizers and organize a meeting between CEOs of large Russian companies with Brazilian executives.

President Bolsonaro, however, managed to irritate the Americans by expressing “solidarity” with Russia. The speech, made impromptu next to Mr. Putin, ended up generating a diplomatic clash with the U.S.

The White House reacted through spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said that “I think Brazil may be is on the other side of where the majority of the global community stands.”

A Brazilian government source told Valor at the time that “the Americans are escalating an issue that does not deserve to be escalated.”

After the first news that Russia was attacking Ukraine, the presidency and the Foreign Ministry have been asked to take a position on the conflict, especially because of Brazil’s position as a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Bolsonaro was silent throughout the day. The Itamaraty issued a note calling for “the immediate suspension of hostilities and the beginning of negotiations leading to a diplomatic solution to the issue, […] taking into account the legitimate security interests of all parties involved as well as the protection of the civilian population.”

At a press conference, Minister Adriano Pucci, director of Itamaraty’s Social Communication Department, denied that Brazil’s position in the conflict is one of “neutrality.”

“Brazil’s position is one of balance, of unquestionable attachment to international law, to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and to the centrality of the role of that body in finding a peaceful solution,” he said. “Our conviction is that the more a situation deteriorates, the more reason there is for dialogue. And also that Brazil does not intend to contribute to making the drums of war beat. These drums, when you look inside, are empty.”

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Brazil’s inflation, growth may be pressured by Ukraine conflict

Boletim Focus: Mercado eleva previsões para inflação e economia em 2019

The war between Russia and Ukraine may put even more pressure on Brazilian inflation in the short time this year, experts say. In practice, the conflict, close to oil and grain-producing regions, will raise commodity prices and Brazil will be somewhat impacted. Analysts say oil giant Petrobras could raise gasoline and diesel prices and warn about more expensive products, especially those made of grains like wheat and oats, in the wholesale and retail markets.

“It is indeed something that will affect inflation, not only in Brazil but on a global scale,” said Étore Sanchez, chief economist at Ativa Investimentos, on the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. He warned that, in the case of gasoline, which has a great weight in the formation of Brazil’s benchmark inflation index IPCA, calculated by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), this product already operates with a price that has “a 20% lag” in relation to the international price, according to his calculations. This was before the conflict in Ukraine, which started at dawn on Thursday.

The conflict may contaminate Brazil through two channels, said Alessandra Ribeiro, a partner and head of macroeconomics and sector analysis at Tendências Consultoria. One is the financial one, due to capital flight from emerging economies to less risky assets. The other is the “real economy,” with the increase in commodity prices reducing consumption in global terms.

According to calculations by Rafaela Vitória, chief economist at Banco Inter, the gasoline price lag has been between 10% and 12% — and has been “admirably” controlled by Petrobras. But the specialist admitted that the situation has changed completely with the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine. This is because the situation leads to an escalation in the price of the Brent-type oil barrel, she noted. “We may have imminent readjustment of fuels [in Brazil],” she admitted.

André Braz, an economist at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) and responsible for inflation calculations in the General Price Indexes (IGPs) family, agrees. “With this situation, oil has already reached the $100/barrel threshold,” he warned. “It’s a situation that could get worse as this conflict evolves and perhaps compromise oil production, oil extraction. This will still involve other countries and it is just beginning,” he warned.

Mr. Braz commented that oil was already rising before the conflict, but the recent appreciation of the real against the dollar helped to offset the impact, in Brazil, of the rising prices of dollarized commodities. “Brazil is being visited by a large speculative volume, the smart money,” he pointed out, explaining that, with more dollar inflows into the country, the foreign exchange rate dropped: “It is a volatile money, but it helps to reduce the impact of dollarized commodities. So, if we had not accumulated a positive variation of the real, it would be a harder impact,” he said.

The FGV expert noted, however, that although a recent appreciation of around 10% of the real against the dollar softens some impacts, it “softens but does not prevent” the inflationary impact of high commodity prices in Brazil. For the specialist, it is possible that there will be news of fuel hikes in the coming days, such as gasoline and diesel.

Besides oil, another warning from the specialist is the probable increase in the price of grains and their products in Brazil. He recalled that Russia is a strong producer of wheat, and Brazil is not self-sufficient, which is important both in the calculation of wholesale and retail inflation, he noted. “If wheat flour goes up, it contaminates a long chain [in retail] that goes to wheat flour, pasta, bread, crackers, noodles, a series of component items of the basic food basket,” he listed. “We don’t reap anything positive from a war, and the effects of it will certainly get to inflation,” he said.

Rodolfo Margato, an economist at XP, also sees “an upward pressure bias” on oil products and grains produced in conflict areas, such as wheat, rye and oats. But he pointed out that it is impossible to project impacts in percentage points in inflationary indicators at the beginning of the conflict in the region.

But, in the case of commodities, he said that before the war between Russia and Ukraine the world was already facing reduced stocks of commodities and, in the case of Brazil, domestic inflation in 12 months already was in double-digit levels. This week, before the Russian invasion of the neighboring country, the IPCA-15 for February, a preview of the IPCA, the official inflation indicator, already saw a 12-month increase of 10.76%. “The scenario is of higher global uncertainty, especially commodity prices rising,” he acknowledged, adding that, in general, the conflict in Ukraine makes it more difficult to fight inflation in Brazil.

(Anaïs Fernandes, Marina Falcão and Marta Watanabe contributed to this story.)

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

How Russia-Ukraine conflict affects Brazilian agribusiness

AGROBUSINESS

It is impossible to talk about pros and cons in the face of a war. There are only “cons”, and for Brazilian agribusiness they are multiplying with the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

An immediate reflection of this escalation, grains prices soared on the international market. It is true that Brazil is a major exporter of soybeans and corn and can even benefit from the increases in prices of both commodities, but the country is also one of the largest importers of wheat, with prices rising the most.

Among the “soft commodities”, sugar and cotton, which are directly influenced by oil prices, are also on the rise and the curve may favor Brazilian exporters. But prices of coffee, cocoa and orange juice, equally important for the country, are falling.

In common to all agricultural products, fertilizers, which are already much more expensive since last year, will certainly increase even more, and with the expectation of increasing sanctions on Russia, one of the main exporting countries of the input in the world, the supply scenario is bleak.

It is always good to remember that, despite being the largest net exporter of agricultural products in the world, Brazil imports around 80% of the fertilizers used in crops. So, if rural producers manage to buy everything you need in the market this year without Russia — and without Belarus, also an important supplier, which is no longer able to sell because of U.S. and EU sanctions —they will have to pay much more for input.

The result of this equation points to increases in the prices of basic grains for human and animal food and sugar, essential even for the poorest population, could be more inflation. The calculation also takes into account the effects on production costs and prices of cheaper proteins such as chicken meat and eggs.

Russia and Ukraine are, respectively, the first and third largest wheat exporting countries in the world, behind only the European Union. So far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that, together, they would ship 59 million tonnes in this 2021/22 season, almost a third of the total forecast. According to the USDA, the two countries would also be responsible for shipments of 38 million tonnes of corn, or 20% of the total volume.

In the case of fertilizers, Russia leads global exports of nutrients derived from nitrogen, is the second largest country in shipments of potassium products and the third in phosphates. The country recently suspended shipments for two months, but the flow was expected to resume by the beginning of April, which is now pending. In the fourth quarter of 2021, urea, for example, was already 245% more expensive than a year earlier.

As already reported by Valor, the import of fertilizers is at the base of the commercial relationship between Brazil and Russia. In 2021, Brazil imported 3.6 million tonnes of Russian potassium chloride ($1.3 billion). Another $1.2 billion was spent on the purchase of urea (1.3 million tonnes), ammonium nitrate (1.4 million tonnes), nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (967,000), according to data from Comex Stat, database maintained by the Economy Ministry.

Brazil also imports agricultural products such as malt (157,300 tonnes) from Russia. The volume of wheat is small (28,000 tonnes), because in this case the bulk of purchases come from Argentina.

On the other hand, imports of products from Ukraine are not very relevant. Among the agricultural items imported by Brazil, the list contains cigarettes, frozen fruits and oats, with deals of $2 million last year.

Brazilian exports to both countries are based on agricultural products. For Ukraine, the relevance is also small. Sales are led by peanuts, with 22,200 tonnes for $29.2 million in 2021. The beef industry exported 4,600 tonnes last year, 13% more than the previous year. The values advanced 34% compared to 2020, to $15.4 million.

Sugar, soluble coffee, soy, tobacco, beef tripe, pepper and chicken meat are also on the list. In all, the sale of agricultural products to Ukraine amounted to $148.2 million in 2021.

Shipments to Russia are more significant. They include 768,200 tonnes of soybeans in 2021, or $343.2 million. The commodity is the main product exported to the Russians. Among the proteins, the highlight is the chicken meat. Last year, 105,800 tonnes were shipped, or $167.1 million.

The basket of main Brazilian agribusiness products exported to Russia also includes coffee, peanuts and sugar. Beef comes next, with 35,300 tonnes sold and revenues of $137.6 million. Brazil also resumed exporting pork (9,200 tonnes), after spending 2020 without exports, and 458 tonnes of horse meat were also shipped to Russia in 2021. Revenue from shipments exceeded $1.2 million.

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Airlines under strong pressure as Brazilian currency weakens

An Azul plane: CEO said company may cut capacity — Foto: Marcelo Carnaval/Agência O Globo
An Azul plane: CEO said company may cut capacity — Foto: Marcelo Carnaval/Agência O Globo

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may put strong pressure on the shares of airlines around the world. In Brazil, Gol and Azul were also impacted. The armed attack led to an increase in the price of oil and the real lost value against the dollar — about 55% of the costs of Brazilian airlines are dollarized and fuel accounts for 30% of expenditures.

The war, whose duration and unfolding cast a shadow over the world economy, comes just as the tourism sector was beginning to pick up after two years of pandemics and travel restrictions.

Unlike international airlines with operations in the region and that need to readjust their networks, the impacts on Brazilian companies are more related to foreign exchange and oil, said Pedro Bruno, a transport analyst at XP.

At the end of the day, the preferred shares of Gol closed down 2.57%, at 17.45. Azul’s preferred shares lost 5.85%, to R$26.06.

“The rise of oil prices and the weakened real are very negative for the finances of the companies,” he said.

The sector, the expert said, has already seen a jump in ticket prices due to the rise in oil prices in recent months. Used to volatility, the airlines have tools to circumvent this scenario in the short term, such as hedges. If the conflict is long, however, it tends to convert itself into higher prices to the consumer, says the analyst of brokerage house XP.

The upward trend in oil prices is expected to motivate an adjustment of less profitable routes, said Azul CEO John Rodgerson on Thursday in a conference call to present 2021 data.

“When fuel prices rise fast, you cut capacity, you cut some not-so-profitable flights. Our team is checking route by route to see what we may cut,” he said. The escalations in oil prices now, he said, will be felt by the company in 30 days (today’s fuel price is a Petrobras average of the last 30 days).

The tensions already bring negative effects on the world oil price. Mr. Rodgerson, however, said that the company’s planning will be conducted calmly and will not be based on the events of the last few hours.

Alexandre Wagner Malfitani, Azul’s chief financial and investor relations officer, pointed out that the company has been able to raise fares to cope with cost increases in recent months. “We can generate profit and EBITDA even in a scenario of high oil prices,” he said.

Analysis: War shuffles moves of central banks in Brazil, abroad

Supreme Court upholds statute giving autonomy to Brazil's Central Bank -  The Rio Times

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further exacerbates global inflationary pressure, but central banks are not all likely to respond in the same way. In Brazil, the most likely prescription is more interest to tackle rising prices, without much room to look at economic activity.

Over the last few weeks, the foreign exchange rate had been having an unusual behavior in Brazil, falling to R$5 to the dollar on Wednesday. This positive view in the exchange market overshadowed the latent tensions in the interest market, where the geopolitical risk was more strongly expressed.

Economists who did the math concluded that even with a stronger real, commodity prices in reais were on the rise, especially grain and energy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made these prices jump again and, at least in this first moment, the exchange rate also responded upwards.

Even before the crisis worsened, some economic analysts suspected that the appreciation of the real was temporary. There are, however, many good people in the market who argue that the real was undervalued, and the exchange rate would eventually fall. But the controversy was somewhat less about inflation and how the Central Bank should react.

The February inflation forecast was higher than expected, and the index, qualitatively speaking, was not good. The Central Bank itself had already been highlighting surprises in services inflation, the most dangerous of all because it is the most resistant to falling.

The invasion of Ukraine means the prolongation and intensification of the price shock caused by the pandemic, from which we had not yet rid ourselves. The risks of further contaminating the long-term trend of inflation increase, and the Central Bank has less room to lower its guard and be flexible in taking care of the economic activity.

In developed economies, the equation is different, and the risks of monetary policy error are huge. The long-term yield curve in the United States, which is not so steep, reflects a lot of these uncertainties.

When the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled that all possibilities were on the table to combat inflationary pressures, the market began to adjust the yield curve.

The shorter vertices rose more, but still without pricing in a rate hike above the neutral level, currently estimated at 2.5% per year. Many thought this was not enough, given the immense challenges for the Fed, with inflation at 7.5% a year in the U.S., a labor market at full capacity and strong wage growth.

There was also the stubbornness of longer-term interest rates, which, at most, remained around 2% per year. There were several theses in the market to explain this. A popular one was that the Fed would overshoot to counter a temporary price shock before being forced to back off.

After the invasion of Ukraine, the interest rate on ten-year U.S. Treasury bonds fell below 1.9%. Two stories can be told. One is that this is a typical risk-aversion move, when everyone goes to the U.S. bond and the interest rate falls. Other is that, in the end, this new shock will slow down the global economy and take care of inflation.

The shock can hit economic activity through several channels. Rising fuel prices erode disposable income and therefore hold down prices. Falling stock markets have an impact called “wealth effect” – that is, the wealth of consumers falls and they spend less. Risk aversion itself slows down the economy.

None of this prevents gasoline from rising at the pump. But the shock originating in Ukraine could be an additional force to cool the economy in a year in which the U.S. fiscal policy is contractionary. If this movement restrains wage inflation, monetary policy may be less required.

None of this, however, changes the fact that very high inflation in the United States gets a new boost, prolonging the period of high prices. In Brazil, this usually causes great damage to inflation expectations, but for the Fed this is still a question mark. If the Fed looks at activity, it will certainly be taking more risks on the inflation side.

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Brazil’s inflation, growth may be pressured by Ukraine conflict

Rafaela Vitória — Foto: Divulgação
Rafaela Vitória — Foto: Divulgação

The war between Russia and Ukraine may put even more pressure on Brazilian inflation in the short time this year, experts say. In practice, the conflict, close to oil and grain-producing regions, will raise commodity prices and Brazil will be somewhat impacted. Analysts say oil giant Petrobras could raise gasoline and diesel prices and warn about more expensive products, especially those made of grains like wheat and oats, in the wholesale and retail markets.

“It is indeed something that will affect inflation, not only in Brazil but on a global scale,” said Étore Sanchez, chief economist at Ativa Investimentos, on the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. He warned that, in the case of gasoline, which has a great weight in the formation of Brazil’s benchmark inflation index IPCA, calculated by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), this product already operates with a price that has “a 20% lag” in relation to the international price, according to his calculations. This was before the conflict in Ukraine, which started at dawn on Thursday.

The conflict may contaminate Brazil through two channels, said Alessandra Ribeiro, a partner and head of macroeconomics and sector analysis at Tendências Consultoria. One is the financial one, due to capital flight from emerging economies to less risky assets. The other is the “real economy,” with the increase in commodity prices reducing consumption in global terms.

According to calculations by Rafaela Vitória, chief economist at Banco Inter, the gasoline price lag has been between 10% and 12% — and has been “admirably” controlled by Petrobras. But the specialist admitted that the situation has changed completely with the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine. This is because the situation leads to an escalation in the price of the Brent-type oil barrel, she noted. “We may have imminent readjustment of fuels [in Brazil],” she admitted.

André Braz, an economist at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) and responsible for inflation calculations in the General Price Indexes (IGPs) family, agrees. “With this situation, oil has already reached the $100/barrel threshold,” he warned. “It’s a situation that could get worse as this conflict evolves and perhaps compromise oil production, oil extraction. This will still involve other countries and it is just beginning,” he warned.

Mr. Braz commented that oil was already rising before the conflict, but the recent appreciation of the real against the dollar helped to offset the impact, in Brazil, of the rising prices of dollarized commodities. “Brazil is being visited by a large speculative volume, the smart money,” he pointed out, explaining that, with more dollar inflows into the country, the foreign exchange rate dropped: “It is a volatile money, but it helps to reduce the impact of dollarized commodities. So, if we had not accumulated a positive variation of the real, it would be a harder impact,” he said.

The FGV expert noted, however, that although a recent appreciation of around 10% of the real against the dollar softens some impacts, it “softens but does not prevent” the inflationary impact of high commodity prices in Brazil. For the specialist, it is possible that there will be news of fuel hikes in the coming days, such as gasoline and diesel.

Besides oil, another warning from the specialist is the probable increase in the price of grains and their products in Brazil. He recalled that Russia is a strong producer of wheat, and Brazil is not self-sufficient, which is important both in the calculation of wholesale and retail inflation, he noted. “If wheat flour goes up, it contaminates a long chain [in retail] that goes to wheat flour, pasta, bread, crackers, noodles, a series of component items of the basic food basket,” he listed. “We don’t reap anything positive from a war, and the effects of it will certainly get to inflation,” he said.

Rodolfo Margato, an economist at XP, also sees “an upward pressure bias” on oil products and grains produced in conflict areas, such as wheat, rye and oats. But he pointed out that it is impossible to project impacts in percentage points in inflationary indicators at the beginning of the conflict in the region.

But, in the case of commodities, he said that before the war between Russia and Ukraine the world was already facing reduced stocks of commodities and, in the case of Brazil, domestic inflation in 12 months already was in double-digit levels. This week, before the Russian invasion of the neighboring country, the IPCA-15 for February, a preview of the IPCA, the official inflation indicator, already saw a 12-month increase of 10.76%. “The scenario is of higher global uncertainty, especially commodity prices rising,” he acknowledged, adding that, in general, the conflict in Ukraine makes it more difficult to fight inflation in Brazil.

(Anaïs Fernandes, Marina Falcão and Marta Watanabe contributed to this story.)

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Chinese company becomes leader in solar panels in Brazil

Álvaro García-Maltrás — Foto: Divulgação
Álvaro García-Maltrás — Foto: Divulgação

A Chinese company that arrived in Brazil in 2016 managed to become, in five years, the largest seller of photovoltaic panels for the solar power generation market in the country. Trina Solar imported to Brazil enough solar panels to generate about 1,500 megawatts at peak last year alone, according to data from consulting firm Greener.

Trina was founded in China in 1997 and today supplies more than 100 countries with modules and other equipment for photovoltaic generation, as well as smart grid and power systems and a cloud power operating platform. The company has been listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange since 2020, when it achieved global operating revenues of $4.5 billion.

Brazil now accounts for almost 10% of the company’s sales worldwide, said Álvaro García-Maltrás, Trina’s vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This is very significant, especially considering how fast we have grown in Brazil. It is very rewarding to see that when we arrived in the country, the market was relatively small, and now it is one of the main markets in the world,” he said.

Trina offers solutions for both centralized generation, which are the large power plants, and for distributed generation, which includes projects in which the consumer himself generates power through panels on the roof, for example. Mr. García-Maltrás says that operating on both fronts has contributed to the company’s rapid expansion in Brazil, because both segments have seen great growth in the country in recent years. Between 2016 and February 2022, the solar source went from 93 MW of installed power in Brazil to 13,520 MW, according to data from the Brazilian Photovoltaic Solar Energy Association (Absolar).

For this year, the source is expected to see a new leap in Brazil, especially in the segment of distributed generation. New rules for projects in this segment were signed into law by President Jair Bolsonaro in January, with the forecast that the projects that request connection to the electrical system until the beginning of 2023 will remain exempt from paying grid usage fees. The scenario has generated a rush for new projects.

“The stable legal framework will allow the distributed generation segment in Brazil to grow even more. Last year, the growth was already strong, but I believe that by 2022 it can be up to 50% bigger,” Mr. García-Maltrás said.

To meet the growth, the group intends to expand the team in the country this year. Despite the upbeat perspectives, the executive said that the market suffered with the pandemic and that logistical restrictions in the delivery of equipment that comes from China will probably still be felt in the first half of this year, with a return to normal expected for the second half of 2022. “This is limiting our ability to get the equipment here, in some cases. The goods are typically manufactured in China and brought to Brazil, so the distance is great,” he said.

Another point of attention, in the specific case of Brazil, is the volatility of the currency and the impacts of this on the final costs of the projects. Data from Greener show that the prices of the photovoltaic system for the final customer in January 2022 saw an average year-over-year increase of 8% and reached the highest levels in the last two years.

According to Mr. García-Maltrás, however, price variations have not limited the growth of the source in the country. There are also no major changes expected in the trends for the sector after this year’s presidential elections. “Solar technology is among the most competitive. I believe success and growth is guaranteed. Governments can make it faster or slower, but growth will materialize,” he said.

Among the technological bets for the next few years, the company foresees the growth of distributed generation projects with storage solutions, such as batteries, which help guarantee the autonomy of power supply when there is no sunlight, such as at night. In the segment of centralized generation, one bet is on green hydrogen solutions associated with solar power. “This will be one of the technological solutions that will lead to market growth. We already see this very advanced in Chile, for example. Several centralized generation projects in Chile are already being designed with these systems,” he said.

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Brazil reacts against agricultural subsidies at WTO

Brazil gave a clear warning to India and several other developing countries this Wednesday at the World Trade Organization (WTO): there will be no blank check for granting agricultural subsidies at the expense of Brazilian exports.

With this position, Brazil reacts to a double attempt to close agricultural markets in negotiations at the conference that will bring together ministers of Agriculture from the 164 member countries of the organization — and which will probably be in the week that begins on June 13, in Geneva.

The first is the demand from a group of developing countries led by India for a permanent solution that allows the formation of public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH).

New Delhi wants the creation of a definitive rule for the adoption of new programs with administered prices and with the granting of unlimited and unrestricted subsidies for a wide variety of commodities — including sugar — that cannot be challenged in the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO.

The second attempt by this group of developing countries, which includes several Asian and African nations, contemplates the application of special safeguard measures – which is reflected in tariff increases on agricultural products when there are abrupt price declines or sudden increases in imports.

On both fronts, agricultural discussions at the WTO, instead of gradually moving in the direction of liberalization, could go in the opposite direction, with more obstacles for exports to India, Indonesia and several other major markets.

Not only Brazil and other Latin American countries would be affected. The U.S. would also be hit at some point, according to an observer on the trade scene.

For exporters, India wants to give additional subsidies without showing any transparency — that is, without saying how much it gives to farmers, how much it has in stock and what is being diverted to the international market or not.

The Indians allege difficulties in this, which leads some partners to ask how it is possible for New Delhi to have a nuclear program if it cannot say how much it spends in support of its sugar producers, for example.

On the other hand, special safeguard measures are a mechanism normally used in balance with an opening of the market, and not as the proponents intend to do now, just to keep the doors closed.

India has become the largest rice exporting country in the world, and the third largest for sugar, boosted by an agreement made at the 2013 WTO conference in Bali (Indonesia), when it obtained a temporary solution to be able to grant more subsidies to build up public stockholding.

On Wednesday, however, Brazil sought to stop the attempt to establish permanent rules for even more unlimited subsidies. The country warned that the mandates on public stockholding could be reviewed, as the consensus that created them no longer exists.

The Brazilian position is that PSH, as it is currently presented, actually causes food insecurity. For Brazil, food security requires a reduction in the volume of hundreds of billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies, not the other way around.

Moreover, the country argues that malnutrition is not a problem of lack of food, but of access to food. Open trade ensures that food can arrive faster and at cheaper prices, even to poorer countries with an agricultural sector that cannot compete with those that heavily subsidize their producers.

In other words, the $60 billion in subsidies offered by India affect farmers in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Vanuatu, among many others.

The message was that Brazil is not against anyone, and that preserving Brazilian exports is part of the solution, not the problem. The country is willing to negotiate a more modern understanding of food security, in order to react to the real causes of the problem. But what Brazil will not accept is giving a blank check to India and other countries for granting subsidies.

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com

Ban on deforestation products will protect Cerrado, EU says

Soy crop in Mato Grosso: the Cerrado is the second largest biome in the country — Foto: Ruy Baron/Valor
Soy crop in Mato Grosso: the Cerrado is the second largest biome in the country — Foto: Ruy Baron/Valor

The European Union believes its proposal to ban the import of beef, soy, coffee and other products from deforestation and forest degradation will protect much of the Brazilian savanna, the biome called Cerrado, where 75% of the country’s agribusiness is located.

In a meeting this week with agriculture ministers from the 27 EU member countries, the Environment Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevicius, highlighted the importance of implementing “zero deforestation” in imports and signaled that more ecosystems could be covered by the initiative in the future.

“As an example, we estimate that the proposal should contribute to the protection of about two-thirds of the area of native vegetation remaining in the Cerrado biome, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion in Brazil,” he told ministers.

To Valor, Mr. Sinkevicius’ team said that “area remaining of native Cerrado vegetation” means the area of this biome that has not yet been transformed into pasture, agriculture, infrastructure, etc., before 2020.

The European official said that the EU does not yet have the same kind of detailed data for the Amazon. “We studied the precise case of the Cerrado because it is mostly a savanna,”, he explained. “In any case, since the Amazon is essentially a tropical forest, it is clear that the (European) Regulation will protect most of its surface.”

The Cerrado is the second largest biome in the country in terms of area, only surpassed by the Amazon rainforest. It is responsible for 24% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1985 and 2019, the area of agriculture grew more than tree times in the biome, today reduced to half of the original vegetation: there are 25 million hectares of crops and 61 million hectares of pastures, according to MapBiomas.

When the European proposal for “zero deforestation” in the import of six commodities – beef, soy, coffee, cocoa, wood and palm oil – was presented in November 2021, the Environment Commissioner told the European Parliament that, in the text, “deforestation” means the conversion of the forest into agricultural use, whether or not induced by man; and “forest’” means land of more than 0.5 hectares with trees of more than 5 meters and canopy cover of more than 10%, or trees capable of reaching these limits, excluding agricultural plantations and lands predominantly under agricultural or urban use.

The interpretation of certain experts is that the Pantanal has not yet entered this definition. But in the case of the Cerrado, one part fits and another one does not, depending on the 10% level, and this has an impact on exporters. Thus, for products from Cerrado areas which may be included in the definition of forest, it will be necessary to segregate products from other areas according to the geolocation of production. Companies will need to show that these commodities are not linked to deforestation for the bloc of 450 million consumers.

In an impact assessment document released in November, the EU underlined that stricter rules aimed at protecting the Amazon rainforest have already been shown to accelerate the conversion of Cerrado savannas and wetlands to agricultural production.

Brussels warned that it planned to work in partnership and give support to producer countries on aspects related to “root causes of deforestation”, such as governance, law enforcement and fighting corruption. It also wants to strengthen international cooperation with the main consuming countries to promote the adoption of similar measures to prevent products from supply chains linked to deforestation and forest degradation from being placed on the market.

In the EU’s assessment, the main drivers of deforestation vary geographically. The expansion of agricultural land dedicated to palm oil plantations is one of the main causes of deforestation in Southeast Asia, for example, while the clearing of forests for cattle pasture and for soy plantations and land speculation (land grabbing, often associated with the forced displacement of local communities) are the main drivers in South America. The expansion of cocoa plantations has had a significant impact on deforestation in Central and West Africa.

Source: Valor International

https://valorinternational.globo.com