Bolsonaro Uses Possible Russian Fertilizer Shortage to Defend Mining on Indigenous Lands

Government fears impact of fertilizer shortage on agriculture and inflationary pressure

President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) used this Wednesday (2) the possible shortage of fertilizers caused by the war in Ukraine to defend mining in indigenous lands. "In 2016, as a deputy, I spoke about our dependence on potassium from Russia. I mentioned three problems: environmental, indigenous and who owned the exploratory right at the mouth of the Madeira River (there are also deposits in other regions of the country)," Bolsonaro wrote in a statement on Twitter.

Russia is the world's second largest producer of potash and accounts for about 19% of the international market.

"Our Bill No. 191 of 2020, 'allows the exploitation of mineral, water and organic resources in indigenous lands'. Once passed, one of these problems is solved," the president said. "With the Russia/Ukraine war, today we run the risk of a lack of potassium or an increase in its price. Our food security and agribusiness (economy) demand from us, Executive and Legislative, measures that allow us to not be externally dependent on something we have in abundance" With the outbreak of conflict in Eastern Europe, concern about the possible lack of fertilizers - also nitrogen and phosphate - entered the Bolsonaro government's radar. Russia is an important exporter of these products. In 2021, 62% of the total imported by Brazil from Russia was fertilizers or chemical fertilizers (in the equivalent of US$ 3.5 billion).

Despite Bolsonaro's speech, experts in the sector point to problems in the president's proposal. They say that, although the possible incidence of potassium in the Amazon has been recorded for decades, it is in conditions of difficult extraction. The extraction activity in the Amazon would lead to great environmental damage.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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