Brazil has the largest economy in South America
and the ninth largest in the world. However, income distribution
is highly unequal and poverty affects more than one-third of the
total population. Unequal land distribution is a contributing factor:
nearly half of all private lands are owned by only 1 percent of
the people. Many of the landless live in favelas (shantytowns) on
the outskirts of urban centers.
Brazil is largely self-sufficient in food and consumer
goods. Agriculture employs about 30 percent of the population. Brazil
is the world's largest producer of coffee, oranges, and bananas.
It also is a major producer of soybeans, corn, cocoa, beef, pork,
and rice. Much of Brazil's sugarcane is used to produce ethyl alcohol,
a fuel used in more than 1.5 million Brazilian cars. The industrial
sector exports automobiles and parts, textiles, minerals, iron ore,
steel, and metals; other industries include cement and chemicals.
Natural resources include gold, nickel, tin, timber, and oil. Hydroelectric
dams generate most of their electric power. Brazil is a member of
Mercosur, a regional free-trade pact that includes Argentina, Paraguay,
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