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Plastics as a productivity catalyst for agriculture

Brazilian agribusiness has become increasingly prominent on economic agendas

Ana Paiva

Ana Paiva*


Brazilian agribusiness has become increasingly prominent on economic agendas. Even in the difficult and uncertain times of the pandemic, last year the sector was responsible for a revenue of almost BRL 2 trillion, in addition to having increased its share in the Brazilian GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from 20.5% to 26.6% between 2019 and 2020, according to the Center for Advanced Studies on Applied Economics, of the University of São Paulo (CEPEA-Esalq/USP).
 
Farming productivity has shown consistent growth year on year for various crops. Grain harvests, for example, driven by soybean and corn production, had a record volume of 272.3 million tons for the 2020/2021 period, considered a superharvest, with 15.4 million tons (equivalent to 6%) more than in the 2019/2020 season, according to the National Supply Company (Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento, Conab), published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento, MAPA). 
 
Technological advances adopted by farming, besides playing a significant role in this process of increasing productivity, have proved essential in reducing losses through all the production phases, as well as maximizing the use of resources. Today, the day-to-day life on the farms includes machinery with lower fuel consumption that provides greater efficiency in planting; handling and harvesting activities, as well as digital technologies that enable detailed management of each production phase and the optimization of the use of resources (agrochemicals, fertilizers, water, medicine, manpower, etc.).
 
In such a scenario, plastics solutions also emerge as strategic allies of farmers. The silo bag for grain storage is such an example. The flexible tunnel made from polyethylene (PE) by Pacifil Brasil using Braskem resin, is available in various sizes. During the filling process, oxygen is withdrawn from the bag to prevent pests and insects from developing. Thus, the silo bag allows for storing grains over long periods, which may exceed 12 months, while retaining the initial quality and characteristics of the stored product. Silo bag operation is simple, in both the filling and extraction processes, and it can be installed anywhere on the property, including on the crop itself.

This plastic silo, in addition to its low operating cost, gives the farmer the freedom to decide the best time for selling the crop, rendering maximum profitability to the business, without the need for significant investments in storage infrastructure. For all the benefits shown, the solution has been gaining relevance in the agricultural market, with a 36% growth in demand in the last year. 

Some of the benefits plastics provide to the agribusiness can be noticed in this example. The characteristics of plastics, such as lightness and durability, the option to acquire the most diverse formats, their low cost, among others, makes them a unique material with a tremendous potential to improve the quality of people's lives in many sectors of the economy. 

However, plastic must be consumed with awareness, and always taking into account the concepts of circular economy (reuse, renew and recycle). Industry, especially when involved in the plastics chain, has been increasingly investing in plastics innovation and in the commitment to promote recycling worldwide.

Braskem, for instance, is committed to sustainable development and one of its priorities is to eliminate plastic waste. The company's ambition is to be recognized worldwide as a company that develops the recycling supply chain in the regions in which it operates, and to be the recycling leader in the Americas. To that extent, we continue to act in partnership with other links in the plastics chain to strengthen mechanical recycling, while overcoming technical and logistics barriers to ensure quality recycled material and in quantity. We also continue to work on improving technologies and solutions for advanced recycling, also known as chemical recycling, that is, the transformation of plastic waste into chemical inputs, fuels or raw materials for the manufacture of new plastic products.

This commitment of the entire supply chain will enable society to continue enjoying the benefits plastics offer, including in agribusiness, without harming the environment while preserving safety for future generations.

*Ana Paiva, Market Development Coordinator for the Agribusiness Market at Braskem

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