Spies, satellites, subpoenas: soy buyers play hardball with Brazilian farmers

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Global grains merchants are using satellites and spies to surveil Brazil’s soybean heartland and deploying an army of lawyers to ensure farmers deliver promised crops instead of finding a different buyer at prices that have doubled since deals were made. At stake are billions of dollars and the sanctity of crop contracts in Brazil, the world’s top soy exporter accounting for roughly 50% of the global trade. Soybeans have rallied to an eight-year high and Brazil soy exports have soared in particular, especially to China, which needs feed to rebuild a pig herd devastated by African Swine Fever. If farmers deliver, traders make the profits. If farmers can break their deals, they could double their income. The disputes have tested a somewhat informal business culture in rural Brazil. Farmers say traders are demanding delivery even when no contracts were signed. There are cases when only a verbal agreement was struck on Whatsapp. Other commitments were made over the phone or by email.Those deals are much less appealing to farmers now, as prices soared 71% from May 2020, when many were closed. Traders say farmers should honor their agreements, and lobbyists for top grains merchants such as… continue reading

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