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Economy of Maranhão and São Luís

The palm trees which made Maranhão famous in Brazil are also one of the most important economic activities of the State.
Several other kinds of trees are cultivated, like buriti, bacaba and carnaúba, but the most important is babaçu; see a picture of babaçus.
The babaçu can reach a height of 20 meters, and all its parts, from roots to leaves, have an application. Out of the fruits, it is extracted the raw material used in the manufacture of margarine, coconut fat, soap and cosmetics. Its young growth makes good quality palmito (palm heart), and the fruit, when still green, is used to smoke rubber. When the fruit is ripe, the external part is edible. The trunk is used as timber for the construction of rural housing, and the leaves are used for home made baskets and for roofing of the rustic houses of the region. The tree can also be used for the manufacture of cellulose and paper. As in the case of other palm trees, a liquid can be extracted from the stem of the flower and fermented to produce an alcoholic drink much appreciated by the Indians of the region.
Maranhão is also a large producer of rice, which is exported to other States of Brazil.

Industry. Maranhão is a large producer of aluminum, thanks to the presence of Alcoa in São Luís, which started operations in 1980; Alcoa processes the bauxite brought from Pará.
Also thanks to Alcoa, Maranhão had to improve its energy grid, which was, until the 1970s, dependant on thermal electricity. Today, large part of the energy is supplied by the plants of Boa Esperança, in the border with Piauí, and Tucuruí, in Pará.

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