Brazil: Bolsonaro wants mines in the Amazon for lack of Russian fertilizer

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday advocated the extraction of potassium from indigenous lands in the Amazon to overcome possible difficulties in importing fertilizers from Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.

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“With the war between Russia and Ukraine, we risk running out of potassium (used in many fertilizers, editor’s note) or seeing its price increase,” said the head of state on his Twitter account.

A leading agricultural power, Brazil imports more than 80% of the fertilizers it uses, and, more specifically, 96% of its potassium, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture.

More than 20% of the fertilizers imported by Latin America’s leading economy come from Russia, its leading supplier. Brazil imported $1.79 billion in fertilizer from Russia in 2020, out of a global total of $8.03 billion, the ministry said in an email to AFP.

“Our food security and the agricultural sector require that measures be taken by the executive and the legislature not to depend on imports of products which we have in abundance,” he added.

The far-right president quoted in his tweet a bill which, among other things, provides for the authorization of mining exploration and other natural resources on indigenous lands, which is strictly prohibited by current legislation.

“When this bill is approved, it will solve a problem”, insisted Mr. Bolsonaro, about this text presented to Parliament in 2020 and much criticized by environmental activists.

Since coming to power in January 2019, the former army captain has ardently defended the mining and agricultural exploration of these territories, which are supposed to be sanctuaries for the traditional activities of the indigenous populations.

Brazil’s agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina, admitted last week that the Ukraine conflict was a source of “concern”, but assured that the fertilizers were imported “from several countries”.

“We have other options in case of problems”, she said, citing in particular Iran, Canada or Morocco as fertilizer exporters.

Jair Bolsonaro, who had traveled to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin a week before Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine and expressed his “solidarity” to him, was ambiguous about the conflict, saying Brazil preferred “stay neutral”.

Brazil, however, voted on Wednesday in favor of the resolution overwhelmingly endorsed by the UN General Assembly which “demands that Russia immediately cease the use of force against Ukraine”.

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