Brazilian farmers are used to bartering.
Mato Grosso producers buy nearly half their soybean inputs in return for a promise to deliver a portion of their resultant crop, and they also rent and buy land in return for bags of the precious oilseed.
The barter culture grew in the 1990s because farmers had restricted access to credit. Over the last five years, they have become much better capitalized and so less reliant on barter, but they aren't keen to drop it.
That's because the system offers a built-in hedge to commodity prices, explained Patricia Ambrosio, Brazilian commercial operations manager for chemical company BASF.
BASF plans to expand barter operations to Argentina and Eastern Europe in the near future, she added.
Barter operations could go global in the near future as the increased role of China in the Brazilian soybean inputs market offers scope, Lilian Laxer told a conference in Sao Paulo. Laxer is a senior relationship banker at Rabobank in Brazil.
Last year, China accounted for 75% of Brazil's soybean exports and 23% of Brazil's farm chemicals market.
According to Laxer, the Chinese are interested in bundling up this business.
Obviously, there is plenty of work for the lawyers to resolve the legal questions raised by international barter transactions, perhaps the biggest of which is the lack of guarantees on receivables.
Such resolution would allow greater involvement in barter of banks, which are already financing an ever-growing proportion of Brazilian grain production.
Trading firms and input firms financed 42% of soybean planting in 2012-13 through barter, down from 82% in 2007-08, while farmers funding planting with their own funds rose from 5% to 40% in the same period.
Alastair Stewart can be reached at Alastair.firstname.lastname@example.org
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