Growth of 35.1% between January and August exceeds average rise of foreign purchases
Taking advantage of the expansion of solar power in Brazil and the demand for agricultural inputs, Chinese imports this year have advanced more than the average of Brazil’s total imports. From January to August this year, imports of products made in China totaled $39.74 billion, up 35.1% compared to last year and 63.8% compared to 2019, the pre-pandemic period. The average of total Brazilian foreign purchases grew 32.3% and 44.3%, respectively.
Data from the Foreign Trade Secretariat (Secex/ME) show that imports of Chinese products were driven by solar panels and equipment and agricultural inputs. These two groups totaled $8 billion in foreign purchases from January to August, or 20% of Chinese products that arrived in the period. That means $5.12 billion more in imports of these Chinese products, nearly half of the growth of $10.3 billion in purchases from the Asian country this year compared with the same period last year.
The first in the ranking of Chinese items most imported by the country are electrical and electronic equipment and devices that total $3.55 billion, of which 95% are solar or photovoltaic modules or panels. The amount represents 8.9% of the total bought from China in the first eight months of this year. It is also more than double the $1.43 billion imported in the same period last year, and five times the $700 million of 2019, always considering the January-August period.
More than increasing exports, China is virtually the only foreign supplier of these items for now. It sold Brazil 95% of what the country imported from January to August in photovoltaic modules and panels.
Chinese suppliers take advantage of a moment of expansion of renewable power sources in Brazil at the same time that the Asian country has sought to diversify its own power generation mix, said José Augusto de Castro, head of the Brazilian Foreign Trade Association (AEB). With the plan of becoming carbon neutral by 2060, China bets in solar power within a plan to foster the development of technologies in this field and the diversification in exports of products linked to renewable sources, Mr. Castro said.
Data from the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) and the Brazilian Photovoltaic Solar Energy Association (Absolar) show the advance of solar power in Brazil. The country’s installed capacity in this source jumped to 18.65 GW in August from 13.82 GW in 2021. Photovoltaic energy currently accounts for 9.1% of Brazil’s power generation mix. According to ANEEL, Brazil surpassed 185 GW in power generation capacity in August. Of the 650.14 MW of power increase this month, 57% came from solar plants.
Rafael Cagnin — Foto: Silvia Costanti/Valor
Rafael Cagnin, an economist at the Institute for Industrial Development Studies (Iedi), also recalled the so-called taxation of the sun should come into effect as of 2023, bringing taxation that does not exist today for those who install solar panels at home. This may have accelerated the installation of the photovoltaic system in 2022, not only because of the tax benefit foreseen for those who adopt the source until January of next year, but also stimulated by the high cost of energy in Brazil. “We must remember that China has an almost unbeatable competitiveness in the production of solar panels in the world.”
Another group that draws attention in Chinese imports this year is insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers, and their raw materials. Imports of these agricultural inputs totaled at least $4.46 billion between January and August, three times the amount seen last year ($1.45 billion) and more than four times the amount seen in 2019 ($1 billion) in the same period.
Mr. Castro considers surprising that China, a major destination for Brazilian soybeans, now stands out in the supply of agricultural inputs to Brazil. The picture, said Mr. Cagnin, is explained by the shortage of these products in the world, intensified by the war between Ukraine and Russia, and by Brazil’s great dependence on these items. According to government data, cited by the economist from Iedi, 85% of the internal demand for fertilizers is met by imports.
*By Marta Watanabe — São Paulo
Source: Valor International