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Lula Starts Campaign With Offensive to Charm Brazil Agribusiness

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the front-runner in Brazil’s upcoming election, is stepping up efforts to win over one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s key constituencies: agribusiness.

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Lula, who officially kicks off his campaign with a convention in Brasilia on Friday, has given his centrist running mate Geraldo Alckmin the mission to build bridges with rural leaders. The plan, says lawmaker Neri Geller, vice president of the farming caucus in the lower house, is to reminding them of how prosperous the sector was between 2003 and 2010, when the leftist former president governed the country.

“Lula was a great world leader, opening up markets for the agribusiness,” said Geller, who’s organizing Alckmin’s agenda for an August trip to a handful states focused on agriculture production.

The strategy is key for Lula to maintain his lead over Bolsonaro at a time when the incumbent has shown progress with women, the poor and residents of northeastern states -- all traditional backers of the left-wing leader.

What to Know About Bolsonaro-Lula Showdown in Brazil: QuickTake

It won’t be an easy task, though. Agribusiness is a conservative sector that shares many of Bolsonaro’s values and ideas, including on gun ownership. It particularly applauds the president’s success in reducing invasions of rural properties by the Landless Workers’ Movement. And while agricultural producers benefited from a commodities boom during Lula’s eight years in power, farm revenue reached a record $230 billion last year, again boosted by rising prices of raw materials.

“The agribusiness saw in Bolsonaro the great hope for Brazil to produce high quality food with freedom and peace,” said Nei Manica, president of Cotrijal, the country’s biggest soy cooperative.

Read More: Bolsonaro Woos Rural Brazil With Land and Guns to Catch Lula

Over the next few weeks, Alckmin will visit the states of Mato Grosso and Goias, where Bolsonaro won with 66% of the votes in 2018, as well as Santa Catarina, where he received the backing of 76% of the population.

Alckmin won’t go empty handed, said Geller. He will take proposals such as increasing credit lines for the sector, launching a program for grain storage, and reducing interest rates for the financing of machinery.

“Investments made in agriculture one year come back as job creation and tax revenue in the next,” he said.

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