Ever since the food price crisis of 2007/8, concerns about global food supply interruptions have mounted. However, while exports from Brazil, the world’s leading soy exporter, are currently under threat, this is not due to geopolitical concerns, but due to resource mismanagement. As a consequence, the country with the most water availability per person is mired in an enduring water crisis, impacting on its major water transport routes. Brazil’s development model is based on an oligopolistic public-private, primary-sector conglomerate, fueled by the federal investment bank, BNDES. This article argues that Brazil has embarked on an unsustainable model of development and is exporting that model as part of its ‘South-South Cooperation’ (SSC) drive. Like the other BRICS, Brazil is using SSC to present itself as non-ideological and anti-imperialist but, in fact, uses the cooperation strategy for diplomatic and self-interested economic purposes. The Middle East is specifically targeted as a region with ‘complementary’ interests: rich in fossil fuels, poor in land and water and plenty of petrodollars to buy food security. The current water crisis shows limits to this complementarity, in the process undermining the assumption that ‘virtual-water exports’ promoted by competitive specialization are salutary to the global water balance.
- water availability
- virtual water