While agriculture and livestock are important in the Brazilian economy regarding revenue, employment and trades, there is a great need to understand the situation in the fields, due to the significant deficit of information about their needs. Brazil is a giant, with desire and conditions to supply healthy foods at competitive prices; however, decisions are frequently taken without knowing the real situation and desire of players in the sector. This information could be obtained through the Agricultural Census.
After an 11-year gap, census official have been collecting data regarding Brazilian agriculture and livestock in the field since October 1. This process is expected to continue for five months and the first results may be released in May 2018. According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), Brazil carried out its first agricultural census in 1920. IBGE was founded in 1936 and since then it has been in charge of performing census in the country. Agricultural census have been carried out in 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1996 and 2006. The objective, since the 1970’s, was to perform census every five years; however, due to budget constraints, gaps are wider.
Unfortunately, not every data is comparable between different censuses. For 2017, because financial resources are limited, objectives were reduced compared to initial plans, and certainly some details of production chain will not be collected.
What is the objective of agricultural census data after all? First and foremost, accurate and useful statistics are necessary for the decision-making. The more accurate data on business, the better the decision-making. Therefore, players in agribusiness should facilitate the job of census officials, providing updated and accurate information.
In general, census data are useful for businesses related to agriculture and livestock. Properly analyzed by researchers and analysts, the data generates information to guide the government, cooperatives, cereal traders and trading companies, commercial associations, among others. Agricultural workers themselves may use the census data on planning their own operations. Enterprises and cooperatives, for instance, may use information to determine places for installations of their businesses. For the government, in general, information may guide allocation of services to rural workers. Moreover, policy makers may use census data to create agricultural programs.
The Brazilian agribusiness needs to continue its professionalization process, with players making decisions as a business, not as a “way of life”. Furthermore, technological insertion needs to be part of their routine, allowing data gathering on purchases and sales and, of course, on crop profitability, activities and/or inputs.
Brazil is still undergoing a learning process. Therefore, census officials need to go to every producing unit in person. In the United States, for instance, where censuses have been performed every four or five years since 1920 – the first with data available is from 1840 –, the census in 2017 will have data collecting until February 5, 2018. More general information will be available online and printed in February 2019, according to the USDA. However, the interesting aspect is that players fill out and send the forms electronically, and they are obliged by the law to answer the questionnaire.
In Brazil, IBGE data indicate that 18 thousand census officials have been hired to gather information. The data collection will involve 5.3 million businesses related to agriculture and livestock.
All in all, it will be possible to understand the source of resources, expenses, debts, and to know whether producers receive any technical support. Obviously, many other details could be analyzed, but it is already a great step for Brazil. Maybe policy makers could set aside resources for a new census five years from now and, therefore, keep the advancements.