Market overview

Brazil is severely affected by Covid-19, with the second highest number of confirmed cases in the world, and the number of fatalities is growing daily. It is a growing epicentre for the virus. Hospital occupancy rates are stable but remain high, with continuing concern around the health system’s ability to cope.

There are varying measures and restrictions in different states of Brazil. Despite the rising case numbers, Brazilian states have implemented plans for gradual business reopening and are considering the possibility of schools reopening in September.

The country is also experiencing political turmoil at the highest level, with the President downplaying the impact of COVID-19 and disagreeing with social isolation measures put in place by state governments.

As of 18 August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has temporarily closed the physical premises of the New Zealand Embassies in Brazil and Colombia (also accredited to Ecuador). The Ministry will be reviewing the temporary closure of these Embassies at regular intervals. The diplomatic staff will continue to perform their roles remotely.

For more information on doing business in Brazil, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 

Economy and trade


Brazil’s agricultural exports have been performing very well in recent times, going against the trend of bleaker trade and economic news.

In July, the Brazilian trade balance had a surplus of US$8.06 billion, setting a record for the month, driven by greater demand from Asian countries, the high level of the US dollar, and the generalised fall in imports, as an effect of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil's sugar, pork, beef, and soy exports were higher in July compared to the same period last year. Brazilian sugar exports grew by over 91% in July (by volume), pork exports increased by 48%, soy by 39% and beef by 27%. On the other hand, corn, coffee, and chicken protein exports decreased by 30%, 4% and 5.7% respectively.

Beef exports totalled 169.24 thousand tons in July this year, 27.7% above the 133.19 thousand tons recorded for the same month last year. Revenue totalled US$690.74 million last month, up 30.19% in comparison with the US$530.58 million earned in the same month of 2019. About half of these exports went to Asian countries.

According to the Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA), Brazilian chicken meat exports totalled 364.6 thousand tons in July 2020, a 5.7% decrease in volume compared to the balance recorded in the same month in 2019. Over the same period, foreign exchange revenue from chicken exports reached US$498.2 million, 25% less than in July of 2019.

Oil exports from Brazil rose 117% in July in comparison with the same month last year. Shipments remain strong with Petrobras counting on firm demand from China. Petrol prices have already dropped 47.2% compared with a year ago, meaning that revenue from exports did not keep up with volume growth.


Most market commentators and institutions are in agreement that there will be a reduction in GDP in 2020, with estimates ranging from a 5% to 8% decrease.

On 13 May, the Economic Policy Secretariat of the Ministry of Economy projected a 4.7% drop in the economy this year. In January, the ministry had predicted GDP growth of 2.4%. 

On 10 August, the Brazilian Central Bank’s weekly Focus bulletin projected a 5.62% contraction in the economy for 2020, revised from their prediction of a 6.54% contraction at the end of June.

GDP forecasts may improve later in the year as pessimism about the economy reduces. Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said that agribusiness exports to China will also help to ease the fall in Brazil's GDP this year.

Economic circumstances are fluid in the region and are changing on a daily basis.

Interest rates

Brazil’s current official interest rate is 2%, the lowest since 1996. This scenario was already predicted by financial markets after the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank reduced the rate eight consecutive times since March.

Market expectations are that there will be no further cuts this year, followed by a likely lift to 3% by the end of 2021.

Brazilian real

The Brazilian real has weakened against the US Dollar this year, reaching an historic low of R$5.90 on 13 May. It has since strengthened in June and July to sit around R$5.45, and is expected to be close to R$5.20 by the start of 2021.

Trade balance

Brazil’s projected trade surplus rose from US$54 billion in June to US$55 billion in July. For 2021, the surplus estimate by market experts has risen from US$53.31 billion to US$53.35 billion.

Foreign investment

Brazil’s official Focus bulletin report forecasts a decrease in foreign direct investment in 2020. The current projection is that Brazil will receive US$53.75 billion in foreign investment this year. For 2021, analysts estimate foreign investment of US$65.96 billion.

Industrial production

During June, Brazilian industrial production grew in 14 of the 15 locations surveyed by IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). Almost all of these locations, however, remain at a lower level of production than before the pandemic. Only the state of Amazonas has managed to recover all losses.

Influenced by the production of cars and trucks, Brazilian industrial output increased by 8.9% in June, the second month in a row. However, despite having grown 17.9% between May and June, industrial production is still far from recovering a cumulative loss of 26.6% between the months of March and April.

Five regions registered a significant increase in output, especially in Amazonas where the sector grew 65.7% in June influenced by the production of syrups used in beverages. The four other regions that registered significant increases were Ceará (39.2%), Rio Grande do Sul (12.6%), São Paulo (10.2%) and Santa Catarina (9.1%). Only Mato Grosso registered a drop in its industrial production (down 0.8%).

Of the 26 industrial sectors surveyed by the IBGE, 24 recorded production improvements in June. The highlight was the production of vehicles, which advanced 70% when compared to May.

Supply chain, freight & logistics

As world markets including Brazil’s main economic partners have reopened, Brazilian ports grew by 4% in handling volume from January to May compared to the same period in 2019, according to the New Port Regulatory Grants and Policies from the Brazilian Ports Secretariat.

This result has been aided by the participation of Arab companies in the government's privatisation project in the sector, with 13 lease tenders already made in 2019 and another 20 planned for next year.

Despite this growth, some Brazilian ports are still suffering from the crisis caused by the pandemic. The Port of Santos, for example, recorded its worst June result for import container handling in recent years, suffering a 21.56% decrease since May which had already represented a record low.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) has started to implement new procedures for imported plant products and by-products that will reduce bureaucracy in Brazilian ports and airports. Currently, inspectors needed to access three different systems. The user also needed to deposit the same information in different databases. From now on, all information will be processed on the Single Foreign Trade Portal. The initiative will allow low-risk cargo — or those where control is only documentary — to be released in a few minutes. This frees up inspection teams to focus on inspections of products that are higher risk, as well as perishable products that need to be released.

This link details the products by HS code that are covered by this measure (note wine is included, while kiwifruit is not).

The Government has removed import tariffs on an additional 61 pharmaceutical and medical-hospital products used to combat COVID-19 until 30 September this year. Included are products such as kits for coronavirus tests, medical and hospital equipment and devices, as well as drugs such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for the exclusive use of hospitals.

View the full products' HS codes list here.

The Foreign Trade Chamber (Camex), an inter-ministerial body chaired by the Ministry of Economy, has zeroed the Import Tax on 141 new products, in the context of trade policy measures aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure covers medicines (such as dipyrone and paracetamol); medication supplies; hospital equipment (such as diagnostic ultrasound, kits for tracheostomy and laryngeal masks); in addition to hygiene products (such as medicinal soaps and liquid soaps). The items were defined in a joint piece of work between CAMEX Executive Secretariat, the Ministry of Health and the Federal Revenues.

The Resolution No. 32/2020 ( covers products classified under 92 HS codes. With the new resolution, the number of products that had the import tariff zeroed to fight the pandemic reaches 313.

Research by NTC & Logística (Association of Transportation Companies) found Brazil has registered a 26.9% drop in the volume of cargo transported by trucks between March 23 and 29.

Over the same period, the demand in transportation for agribusiness goods dropped 12.4% due to the higher costs to transport goods. This is in part due to a lack of drivers willing to make the trip due to uncertainty over route infrastructure, and the reduced number of service stations open.

Transportation of all types of products destined for supermarkets, however, increased during the same period.

Government support

Federal taxes postponement

The Secretariat of Federal Revenue has announced it will postpone payments of some federal taxes:

  • PIS/Pasep, Cofins and the employer's contribution to Social Security from April and May to August and October.

  • Individual Income Tax (IRPF) return deadline has been postponed from 30 April to 30 June.

  • The government has eliminated the IOF (Tax on Financial Operations) from April 3rd until July for a series of credit operations. Among them, loans and financing contracted by individuals, and loans and financing from micro and small companies up to the limit of BRL 30,000 (9,600 NZD)

Employment protection programme

The Government has announced a new employment protection programme, allowing for employees and employers to reach a consensus on a reduction of working hours by 25%, 50%, 70% or total suspension of the employment contract. The Treasury will supplement wages, although not in their entirety. This move has been made to preserve jobs for a period equivalent to the reduction or suspension of the contract, currently expected to be up to 90 days.

The programme will cover 73% of registered workers, or 24.5 million people. The fiscal cost of the labour measures announced is estimated at R$51.2 billion (NZ$16.4 billion). Companies with up to R$4.8 million (NZ$1.5 million) in revenues will not be required to pay any aid to their workers. Companies with higher revenues will have to pay 30% of the salary, which will be added to the Government's benefit.

Consumer trends

The National Electric System Operator announced that electricity consumption fell by 15% after the introduction of social distancing measures, indicating an economic slowdown in commercial and industrial activities. Consumption continues to fall monthly, with a decrease of 0.6% in July when compared to the same month in 2019.

According to Latin America's largest payment system Cielo, debit and credit card purchases dropped 44% compared to February. Clothing retail sales dropped 83%, while restaurant sales dropped 72%.

Brazilian retailers lost R$286.4 billion (NZ$81.24 billion) in sales between March and July, according to the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC). The services segment (tourism, transportation, bars, restaurants, automotive services and auto parts) was the most affected, with a decrease of 53.2% in the annual comparison. However, Brazil’s business reopening caused a slight increase in sales, 8% up on May. In expanded retail, the increase was 12.6%.

More than 600,000 people may have been laid off from bars and restaurants with the escalation of the coronavirus in Brazil, according to a projection by the ANR (National Association of Bars and Restaurants) based on a survey with its members.

Video insights

Export support
Last updated: 26 Aug 2020
São Paulo – the new reality in Latin America's biggest city

NZTE's Trade Commissioner for Mercosur, Chris Metcalfe, on how São Paulo is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, and what NZ exporters should be aware of.

Watch now

Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in Brazil.


Brazil’s agriculture sector is performing very well in the current year with agribusiness exports and imports reaching record levels.

Despite a fall in export prices due to the weakening of the real against the US dollar, the volume of agricultural products sold by the country in July grew 21.1% compared to the same period last year.

This performance has been driven by soybeans, whose export value grew 35.2% in the first seven months of this year when compared to the same period of 2019. The exported volume also grew, having a 38.2% increase over the same timeframe. Demand has come mainly from Asian countries, such as China, which registered a 15.4% increase in the purchase of Brazilian products between the first seven months of 2019 and the first seven months of 2020. On the other hand, corn and coffee registered a drop in exports in general.

Agribusiness imports are also at record levels. In the first half of the year Brazilian soy imports grew almost 200% compared to the same period in 2019, totalling more than 272,000 tons of beans purchased. From June 2019 to May 2020, Brazil imported a record 319,000 tons of agrochemicals, worth US$2.95 billion. For the same period, imported fertiliser amounted to 32 million tons, with a value in excess of US$8 billion.

Producers are benefiting from good sales margins for their produce. Meanwhile, more than 700 food production facilities have already been authorised to export to 24 countries since January 2019. Since January 2019, Brazil has opened 65 markets for the export of agricultural products, with 30 markets registered this year alone.

The agriculture sector has a strong outlook, in contrast to other sectors of the economy. The government estimates an agricultural turnover for 2020 of R$697 billion (NZD 198 billion), which would be the highest in 31 years. The results are helped by increased production of meat, soy and coffee. If confirmed, 2020 will exceed 2019's turnover by 8.6%, which was also a record. For soybeans, corn, chicken and pork, exports were at levels higher than the last 5 years, says the Ministry of Agriculture. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Brazil supplies 51.4% of world demand for soybeans and 33% of chicken meat.

Beef exports may rise with the standoff between China and Australia. The volume of beef exported by Brazil from January to April this year is at record levels and this result is mainly due to increased demand from China. The Centre for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (CEPEA) also states that Brazilian exports could be further strengthened as a result of China's recent embargo on the imports of beef from some meatpackers in Australia. The country is an important meat supplier to the Chinese.

Pork exports from Brazil increased 47.9% in July, bringing the total to more than 100,000 tons in the month, according to the Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA). Pork export revenue totaled US$203.1 million in July, an increase of 37.3% on the same period in 2019.

By contrast, poultry exports fell 5.7% in July to register a modest increase of 0.5% over the previous seven-month period.

The federal government has released emergency credit lines for small to medium-sized farmers to face the crisis caused by COVID-19. For small farmers, financing was made available with interest rates of 4.6% per year and a limit of R$20,000 (approximately NZ$6,400) per farmer. For medium-sized farmers, interest will be 6% per year with a limit of R$40,000 (NZ$12,800). All credit lines allow repayment terms of up to three years.

Cooperatives, agro-industries and cereal producers, on the other hand, will have financing made available for the storage and product commercialisation of up to R$65 million (NZ$20.7 million) per beneficiary. Interest rates will vary from 6 to 8%. Credit lines will be available until 30 June.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.