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Global biofuel expansion and the demand for Brazilian land: intensification versus expansion

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A. Elobeid
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The rapid increase in global biofuel production and consumption, particularly of ethanol, has an associated derived demand for crops to produce the necessary feedstock. This working paper assess the implications of global biofuel expansion on Brazilian land usage at the regional level.
The document reveals that most of the expansion in global ethanol consumption outside the US is met by Brazilian ethanol production. The paper analyses the regional land-use changes in Brazil that would result from an increase in ethanol consumption beyond projected levels and finds that:

the expansion in Brazilian ethanol production occurs mostly in the southeast region of the country 
total sugarcane area expansion in Brazil is higher than the increase in overall area used for agriculture
this means that part of the sugarcane expansion displaces other crops and pasture that is not yet replaced, which suggests some intensification in land use
a higher proportion of the expansion in sugarcane area occurs at the expense of pasture area, which implies land intensification of beef production
nevertheless, the impacts on food prices are limited because of the ability of local producers to increase the intensity of land use in both crop and livestock production

The authors conclude that reducing the overall responsiveness of Brazilian agriculture may limit the land-use changes brought about by biofuel expansion, which would in turn reduce its environmental impacts in terms of land expansion.