When an assailant used the butt of his rifle to beat a victim on a farm in Tocantins state two weeks ago, the gun went off and a 12-year-old boy was injured. The boy survived and the panicked attacker and the rest of his gang made off with no more than a laptop. That wasn’t the case in Mato Grosso, when a group of armed assailants took a farm truck laden with a quarter-million dollars’ worth of ag chemicals.
There has been an “explosion” of rural crime across Brazil, according to the National Agriculture Confederation, a national farm association. To back that up, local media giant Globo indicates there were nearly 80,000 rural thefts and robberies over the past ten years in just the states of Minas Gerais, Goiás and Mato Grosso.
Add “armed robbery” to the list
Brazilian producers worry as much as you do about the weather and the vagaries of the market. But on top of that, they’ve got to deal with dilapidated infrastructure—and, all too often—organized armed robbery. Part of that is likely due to the rise of the value of the U.S. dollar, since most ag chem and fertilizer input prices are based to some degree on the value of the greenback. But it also has to do with Brazil’s own rural modernization. Tractors and combines are getting newer and better—and more expensive, nationwide. And, as the Confederation’s Andre Sanches said, “Criminals are going after expensive inputs. They can take $250,000, $500,000 dollars’ worth of agricultural chemicals.”
Which is one reason Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recently signed a decree in Brazil, where very few are allowed to own guns, to allow producers to freely carry firearms within the fence lines of their farms and ranches.
I reached out to an old friend who heads up a county-level producers association in southern Brazil and asked if any of the group's members have been robbed at gunpoint. He knows several neighbors who have been robbed at gunpoint by groups of armed men who know which inputs to grab — the expensive ones — and which to leave, as well as how to drive that combine or tractor off the farm. The Confederation of Agriculture cites one producer who has been robbed seven times.
“Not a lot of farmers carry guns right now. But they probably will now,” he said.
It’s no wonder many of your Brazilian counterparts are pleased with the new presidential decree in a country of strict gun control. Yes, the country that serves as home to Taurus—one of the world’s top three firearm manufacturers—has long had some of the toughest gun control laws, on paper anyway, in the world.
June is fast approaching, typically the biggest month of Brazil’s fertilizer purchases for the coming new crop of soybeans and main-crop corn. But with the new rule that lets producers arm themselves, some of the pickings may just get a bit slimmer for armed robbers looking to snag some of those inputs. And that could make agriculture and ranching—supposed responsible for up to 70% of Brazil’s GDP each year—a little easier.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.