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Worker applying chemicals on the sugar cane field of São Francisco Valley, Minas Gerais State. GugaFerri/iStock/GettyImages

Brazil’s big bureaucracy costs its farmers plenty

Why new product approvals in the South American country are so sloooowwww.

It was 1987, in a sweltering Rio de Janeiro. I had waited in line for an hour at the Federal Police building before being informed there were yet more steps to be followed to keep my student visa.

Living in Brazil is when you truly learn about bureaucracy. And patience.

It’s called Brazil time. In general, it means things move at a slower pace here. Brazilian farmers know it and breathe it every day, and a major inputs association has pointed out that the Kafkaesque slowness of the country’s regulatory system means that, right now, 36 ag chemical products are still awaiting analysis for registration domestically. Some 28 of them are already registered in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Australia and Argentina, according to a report by, an ag news site.

A study indicates that while in most of the rest of the world the approval process for a new ag chem product is typically two years or less, the Brazilians normally take eight to ten years.

Fast soccer players, slow bureaucrats

Back in ’87, I had taken my photograph and filled out the documents as I was told to do in order to maintain my student visa 90 days after my arrival. The thing is that only after an epic wait to get to the front of the line was I told that the documents also had to be notarized. Oh yeah, and that I had to be wearing a coat and tie in the picture.

I was rejected. I was mad. Why hadn’t they told me before I stood in line for an hour?

Thus the infuriating, glacially slow and confusing bureaucracy that Andef, the ag inputs association, says is hurting the country.

The study’s author reported findings last week to Andef, indicating that the lethargy of Brazil’s herbicide and insecticide approval system has meant for yield losses of five to 10% across the board, which is a lot when you consider just the major crops like soybeans, corn, dryland rice, sugarcane, cotton and coffee.

Turns out there were two smart businesspeople who had set up shop just across the street from the Federal Police headquarters. One was a notary public. The other was a guy with a camera, who would rent you the necessary tie and jacket for the picture. And they both charged a lot.

Brazil’s lethargic approval system and crippling bureaucracy may have created some income opportunities for you over the years.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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