Who Profits from Putin's Embargo? How About Brazil

The Brazilians stand to clean up on Russia's one-year embargo against the west

Speaking Spanish with an obvious American accent, I just wasn't getting traction with the Peruvian fast food executive across the desk. I was pushing U.S. frozen fries and he was peeking up at the clock, rearranging the pens in his pencil holder.

But then he saw that my business card indicated I lived in Brazil. His eyes lit up. "Women! Beaches! Soccer!" he said, and the meeting from there progressed smartly.

Not everyone likes us Americans overseas. But they sure love the Brazilians.

Case in point: The Brazilians stand to clean up on Russia's one-year embargo against most food imports from the U.S. and the EU, just established after sanctions were slapped on Russia for arming pro-Russia Ukrainians and annexing the Crimea. At least that's what Russian Minister of Agriculture recently said—chiefly talking about beef, pork and broilers. After all, Brazilian silence regarding that country's reported arming of pro-Russian rebels with missiles of the type that brought down a Malaysian passenger aircraft not long ago.

Silence is golden
And Brazil's uncomfortable silence may pay off for Brazilian exporters. Last year, Brazil sold a reported 60,000 metric tons of broilers to Russia, and could easily double that with the 90 slaughterhouses the Russians have already approved. And Agência Brasil, a news service, reports that Russia bought nearly $2.75 billion in agricultural goods, more than 44 percent of which was beef. Pork exports, at $412 million, were 15 percent of that value.

Interesting, Brazilian President Vladimir Putin was just in the capital city of Brasília in mid-July, to sign a series of bilateral deals to increase trade between the two nations. At the time, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made oblique comments about the U.S. government tapping her telephones, but kept her mouth shut about Russia's thinly-masked moves in the Ukraine.

Related: Russian Import Ban 'Opportunity' for Country's Farmers

And without citing numbers, one Brazilian agriculture official opined the move would be good for Brazil in terms of soybean exports as well. After all, it's doubtful Russia will buy much soy from Ukraine these days.

No matter your politics surrounding the Ukraine issue, it just goes to show you there's always someone waiting in the wings to provide what you won't—whether that's for good reason or not. For corn, soybeans, beef, pork, chicken and a host of other ag products, it's Brazil that stands ready to take advantage of the opportunities that arise when you're best known for women, beaches and soccer.

The opinions of James Thompson are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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