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Brazil: Cane Cutters 312 Dead 82,995 injured in 3yrs

Brazilian ethanol production will jump 22 percent in 2007
from a year earlier, to a record 5.6 billion gallons (21.3
billion liters), the Agriculture Ministry predicts.

Brazil will sell at least 818 million gallons of ethanol
this year to Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S., according to
Uniao da Industria de Cana-de-Acucar, or Unica, Brazil’s biggest
ethanol trade association.

`Helping the Poor’

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former
labor union leader elected to a second four-year term in October
2006, champions ethanol as a means to create jobs, curb
pollution and lessen dependence on fossil fuels.

Sugar cane provides at least 300,000 jobs in Sao Paulo
state alone, paying twice as much as other low-skilled rural
work, former Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues says.
Ethanol is not only good for Brazil, Lula says in speeches; it’s
also good for the world.

BRAZIL……..When we think about ethanol, we think about helping the poor, helping countries like ours out of poverty,” Lula, whose father was an impoverished dock worker, said at an April seminar on poverty at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s regional headquarters in Santiago. “We think about how the world needs to be less polluted, how the world needs jobs, how oil is getting more expensive,” Lula said. “We made ethanol a key part of Brazil’s energy system.”migrant.jpg

Behind the rhetoric lies a harsher reality for the cane cutters of Brazil. Most are migrants, who leave their families in search of jobs that pay about $1.35 an hour. How much they make depends on how much they cut.

312 Worker Deaths

Companies sometimes cheat their employees by undercounting, a government study released earlier this year shows. The work is backbreaking and dangerous.

From 2002 to 2005, the most recent years for which complete statistics are available, 312 sugar and ethanol workers died on the job, and 82,995 suffered accidents while working in cane fields and ethanol plants, according to Brazil’s Social Security Administration.

Labor prosecutors are investigating the cases of 21 people who have dropped dead since 2004 while cutting cane. Most were from 25 to 35 years old. “There’s strong evidence that workers die of exhaustion,” Gomes says.

The inspectors are pursuing an industry moving at a torrid pace, stoked by demand from abroad and from Brazil’s production of fuel-efficient cars. Output in Brazil’s main ethanol- producing region, around Sao Paulo, will rise to 4.9 billion gallons this year from 3 billion gallons in 2002, before Lula took office.

Employers expect workers to cut 12 tons of cane a day, up from six tons 30 years ago, according to Joao Amancio, a doctor who works for the Brazilian Labor Ministry. “The increased workload over the last 30 years has fueled a higher rate of accidents, injuries and deaths,” he says.

Source: Bloomberg

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