Source AP ©

Brazil increases sugarcane production

Farmers in Latin America's largest county increased the land devoted to sugarcane by 7 percent last year owing to Brazil's booming ethanol business and the fuel's growing international appeal.

According to the Brazilian Census Bureau, or IBGE, the area planted with sugarcane went from 6.15 million hectares (15.2 million acres) in 2005 to 6.58 million hectares (16.26 million acres) in 2006.

"There is a strong tendency to increase the amount of land set aside for future sugarcane crops as a result of the growing interest in fuel alcohol," IBGE said in its monthly crop report posted on its Web site Monday.

Some environmentalists have voiced concerns that the ethanol craze could accelerate Amazon rain forest destruction if trees are cleared to make room for crops.

Brazilian ethanol makers produced 17 billion liters (4.5 billion gallons) last year, and exported 3.4 billion liters (900 million gallons).

Brazil is the world's No. 1 sugar producer and exporter, and the leading exporter of ethanol made from sugarcane. It also is the world's second-largest ethanol producer after the United States, and is ramping up production of soybean-based biodiesel.

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