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In the discussion of agrarian reform in Brazil, a central concern is the competitiveness of farms on land settlements. This comparative study between milk producers on land settlement schemes and outside aims to enhance understanding of the settlers’ technical and economical potential. The analysis is based on data collected from 39 milk producers from the Rio das Pedras settlement and 42 milk producers located in the bordering municipalities of Uberlândia and Monte Alegre, State of Minas Gerais. The field research took place on April and June but the farm data refer to production, costs, and income occurred in March 2006. We use various technical and economic measures to assess farm performance, though focused on the gross margin per liter and per hectare. The survey results reveal that the average gross margin per liter of milk obtained by producers from outside the settlement was higher than for the settlers. However, the difference in the two averages can be explained by the higher average price per liter obtained by producers from outside the settlement. The larger total gross margin were found among producers ranging from 600 to 1400 liters. Both outside and on the settlement there was wide variation in farm performance. The highest gross margins per liter were obtained on some of the small and medium-size farms, including a few settler farms. The full range of performance indicators which we used did not demonstrate an absolute superiority of non-settler producers over the settlers: producers with poor performance were found among small and large farms, regardless their location. These results lead us to recommend the identification and implementation of actions designed to raise the price of the liter of milk for small scale producers. The study also revealed a need to reassess the optimum intensity of use of purchased feed-stuffs and for the transfer of best practice between farms with similar resource endowments.


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