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Abstract

Brazil now is the largest coffee, sugar, and fruit juice producer, second-largest soybean and beef producer, and third-largest corn and broiler producer. It has overtaken the U.S. in poultry exports, nearly matches the U.S. in soybean exports, and dominates global trade in frozen orange juice. To test and better understand these advances, we draw on decennial farm censuses to examine technical change and efficiency in Brazilian agriculture. Our approach is to estimate a stochastic, multi-product, output distance frontier, using a translog functional form and data disaggregated to the micro-region (sub-state) level. Using two consecutive decennial farm censuses, we combine state-level Fisher productivity-change indexes with state-level translog distance function estimates of technical efficiency change to impute state-level technical shifts. We find, leading up to the soon-to-be-released 2006 agricultural census, that Brazil’s multi-factor productivity growth rate between 1985 and 1996 was 20.2%. Mean state-level technical efficiency was 91.2%, which implies the production frontier expanded 22.2% over the reference time period.

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