BRASÍLIA, Brazil – The supply chains of beef, grains and cotton in the country’s midwestern and northern regions have fueled Brazil’s inward expansion during the past decade.
Investments in tourism, the petroleum sector and improved infrastructure in the air and sea transportation industries have spurred a jump in population along the coast.
These findings are the result of research carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). The information is included in the ninth edition of the Milton Santos National Atlas of Brazil, published in December in honor of the namesake Brazilian geologist.
The Atlas – with 548 maps, 76 graphs, 14 satellite images, eight tables and six photographs – updates Brazil’s geographic, social and economic information. The previous edition was published in 2000.
The data shows changes in population distribution and the economic activities in numerous regions, says geographer Adma Hamam de Figueiredo, managing coordinator of the Atlas.
“The Atlas presents the new geography of Brazil,” he says. “It shows that there has been a significant increase in the inland population and a subsequent accompanying urbanization. On the other hand, there was also a revaluation of the coastal region due to activities related to the petroleum industry, tourism and exportations.”
One of the consequences of the increase in inland population brought about by the expansion of ranching and farming activities was the accelerated urbanization of municipalities such as Sorriso and Lucas do Rio Verde, in Mato Grosso state.
The region’s high productivity has attracted industries and qualified professionals, mainly in cities located along the BR-163 highway (Nova Mutum, Locas do Rio Verse, Sorriso and Sinop), says Nelson Luiz Piccoli, financial director of the Mato Grosso State Federation of Farming and Ranching (FAMATO).
Agribusiness accounts for 70% of the tax revenue in Mato Grosso, Piccoli says.
“Soybean processing companies, meat processing plants and feed mills came in,” Piccoli says. “Urbanization brought great advances in the areas of health and education. Nowadays, our children don’t have to travel in order to study at a university. This made the interior a more attractive place to live, with a quality of life just as good as, or better than any of the country’s big cities.”
The inland growth also is being fueled by the social programs targeting needy families. The families, which receive benefits such as Previdência Rural and Bolsa-Família, also have been aided by improvements in basic services such as health and education, says Jorge Abrahão de Castro, director of Social Studies and Policies at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA).
“From 2004 to 2008, 30% of Brazil’s economic growth was driven by social spending,” Castro says. “In the inland areas, this figure could be much higher, considering the fact that in many places, the local economy is centered on family farming.”
Tourism boosts coastal economy
Petroleum industry activities in Macaé and Rio das Ostras (Rio de Janeiro state), a spike in population caused by the petroleum industry, the thriving shipping industry on the coast of Espírito Santo state and Santa Catarina state’s tourism sector have all played a part in the new wave of coastal development described by the IBGE.
“There was an influx of income on the coasts, which was brought about by petroleum royalties and expansions in the tourism sector, despite the unfavorable exchange rate,” Castro says.
The Brazilian coast has been developing at an accelerated rate in recent years, says Ricardo Moesch, the director of the Tourism Policy Secretariat at the Ministry of Tourism.
The increase in the number of cruises, the heating up of the domestic tourism sector and the introduction of incentive programs, such as “Viaja Mais Melhor Idade” (off-season travel promotion for senior citizens), keep hotels and cities busy, even during non-peak months.
Tourists flocking to Brazil’s beaches fueled an 18% increase in the economies of certain regions, which far outpaces the Latin American average of 4%, Moesh says.
“The number of cruise passengers is expected to grow roughly 30% in 2010-2011,” he says. “That’s roughly 900,000 tourists visiting our beaches, discovering new destinations and stimulating the economies of our cities. In the past, the ships would spend three months here. Now, they’re spending up to six months along our coasts.”
Brasília achieves historic objective
Despite the inland growth in certain areas of the country, the flow of interstate migration continues to demonstrate the pull of major cities and coastal regions, according to IBGE.
The region surrounding Brasília, which attracts a portion of this migration, is an exception.
“The construction of Brasília brought about a major shift, and this trend persists in the surrounding areas, given that many [residents] are relatives of the pioneers,” IBGE’s Figueiredo says. “It has a strategic location in the middle of Brazil, which helps it attract people from several states.”
"The Metropolitan Area of Brasília (AMB) continues growing as a result of the “centrifugation” of the population – people living in areas with lower-rent apartments located around the federal capital – says Aldo Paviani, a researcher from the Department of Geography and the Urban and Regional Studies nucleus at University of Brasília’s (UnB) Center for Advanced Multidisciplinary Studies.
The real estate boom in the nation’s capital also has caused a spike in population, Paviani says.
“This in some way explains the growth through rather intense migration, which has not, however, outpaced internal growth,” he says. “The birthrate in the capital district and its surroundings is enough to warrant the creation of a new city, with more than 50,000 inhabitants every year.”
Growth is still uneven
Regional inequalities still pose a challenge to Brazil’s development, in spite of the wave of regional growth identified by Atlas, specialists say.
The population, the main economic activities, the ports and the mineral exportation companies remain concentrated along the coasts and in southern Brazil, leading to a scarcity of services and available labor in Brazil’s northern and northeastern regions.
“It would be ideal if the settlement were accompanied by a reduction in social inequality and if there was more cohesion between regional planning and economic policy,” Figueiredo says. “In a globalized world, Brazil has an incredible advantage, which is its enormous internal market, its expansive territory and its population.”
The spread of industry, which still is largely concentrated in the south and southeast, and a clearer understanding of the economic vocations of each region could contribute to a lessening of regional inequalities, IPEA’s Castro says.
“When we talk about Brazil being heterogeneous, what we mean is that the financial and industrial centers are still concentrated in the Brazilian south and southeast,” Castrol says. “We need to overcome these differences and build a homogenous country.”