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São Paulo - Economy and Infrastructure

Read also: History of São Paulo

Agriculture. Besides being the largest industrial, commercial and services center of Brazil, the state of São Paulo is also the most important agricultural producer in the country.
Coffee was the main product from the second half of the 19th century until the first decades of the 20th century; plantations were monocultural, and the production was majorly directed to exportation. With the quick development and urbanization of the state, a huge consumer market was created; the focus of production was shifted to this new market, and there was ample diversification of cultures. Today, the farmers paulistas supply products for the consumers of the State, the several food industrializers, other Brazilian states and, in some cases for exportations.
Despite the diversification of cultures, coffee is still the most important product, measured by value; vast portions of land which had changed culture, because of the degradation of fertility, were recently recovered by means of organic and chemical fertilization, and are now producing coffee again; the coffee farms are dispersed all across the State.
The orange farms had a quick expansion, with a concentration on cities near the capital, São Paulo (Sorocaba, for example, is a large producer); the combination of good natural conditions (soil, climate) and modern technology (seed selection, fertilization) helped Brazilian producers to become the most efficient in the world; a discussion has been going on at the World Trade Organization because the Florida government recently introduced an overtax on the Brazilian orange juice, based on - false - allegations of dumping.
São Paulo is the largest producer of cane (more than half of the national production); however, while in the past the cane was used mostly for production of sugar which was exported to Europe, nowadays a good proportion goes into producing etanol, which is used in Brazil (pure or mixed to gasoline) as vehicles fuel. The regions of Piracicaba and Ribeirão Preto have the highest concentration of cane farms.
After the crisis of coffee, in the beginning of the 20th century, cotton was chosen to replace it; the cotton plantations occupied the lands of the western boundaries of the State (which had not been reached by coffee yet), and until then that area concentrates the highest number of cotton farms.
Other important cultures are corn (usually associated with animals feeding), soy (São Paulo doesn´t have the abundance of cerrados as Goiás or Tocantins), banana and rice.
In some cities around the metropolitan region of the capital, there is a so called green belt, cultivated mostly by Japanese immigrants, which supplies fresh vegetables and leaves to the city of São Paulo.

Cattle raising. Many ranches from neighbour States (Minas Gerais, Goiás and Mato Grosso do Sul) send animals to be slaughted in São Paulo; the cities of Barretos, Araçatuba, Andradina and São José do Rio Preto are important beef centers, from where trucks are dispatched to the consumer markets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The region of Vale do Paraíba, near the border with Minas Gerais, has a concentration of milk production farms.

Industry. São Paulo is, by the far, the most important industrial State of Brazil.
The region which surround the city of São Paulo, which includes the cities of Santo André, São Bernardo, São Caetano, Diadema (known as ABCD), Guarulhos, Osasco, Suzano and others (collectively known as Grande São Paulo) concentrates the largest and most diversified industrial park of the country.
Other important regions which enriched with agriculture have become important industrial centers. The Vale do Paraíba, between the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, concentrates the aerospacial industry of Brazil. Campinas, with several universities, has been attracting technology industries. Ribeirão Preto is the biggest Brazilian producer of sugar and alcohol. Franca, in the far north, is famous for shoes and leather products.
With the saturation of the larger cities, there is a movement towards the interior; because São Paulo has the best infrastructure of the country (telecommunications, energy, roads), new projects have been attracted by incentives (tax breaks, free real estate) offered by governments (both from municipalities and from the State) to settle in places outside the crowded capital.
São Paulo, however, will keep the industry supremacy for the foreseenble future.

Energy. São Paulo is the largest producer and consumer of energy in Brazil.
Almost 90% of the energy comes from hydroelectric plants; São Paulo imports energy from other States and countries (technically, half of the Itaipu plant, the biggest in Brazil, belongs to Paraguay).
Prospections conducted in the 1970s (a company called PauliPetro was created and eventually bankrupted) showed that São Paulo is poor in petroleum; still, the state has four refinaries, more than any other.
More recently, themal plants have been built, to reduce dependance on hydro power (and rains); also, big consumers (like the steel mills) have been using more and more natural gas.

There are roads connecting São Paulo to all neighbours. The most important roads are Anchieta and Imigrantes (São Paulo -Santos), Anhanguera (São Paulo - Campinas), Fernão Dias (São Paulo - Belo Horizonte), Dutra (São Paulo - Rio de Janeiro), Castelo Branco (São Paulo - Presidente Prudente), Regis Bittencourt (São Paulo - Curitiba).
Railways were of fundamental importance for the growing of the coffee culture; rails were laid all over the state, following the coffee path. Today, most of the transportation (both of cargo and passengers) is made via the roads, but many railways are still operational; the two most important are the Santos - Jundiaí (it used to be the most important of all lines, because it was the only one connecting São Paulo to the port of Santos, from which coffee was exported), which cuts through the mountains of Serra do Mar, and the Noroeste (Northwest), which reaches the border with Bolivia.
All railways are now administered by a holding company called FEPASA (Ferrovias Paulistas S.A.); FEPASA also maintains the urban trains that serve the city of São Paulo, and which are still an important means of transportation for paulistanos.
Waterways. Because most rivers of São Paulo have a steep profile, the navigation is made difficult (it must be noted, however, that the river Tiete, which goes from the city of São Paulo to the western boundaries, was the main means of transportation used by the bandeirantes in their expeditions). Today, after a system of dams and ecluses was built, a stretch of a few hundred kilometers of the Tiete is used for transportation of cargo.
Airports. There are three major airports in the state.
Congonhas, in the urban area of the city of São Paulo, serves mostly short distance flights (from Rio and Minas Gerais); the airport can´t receive the bigger aircrafts. The airport of Cumbica, in the city of Guarulhos, is the largest airport in Brazil, with connections to the country and the world. Viracopos used to be the international airport of São Paulo until the 1980s, when Cumbica was opened; today, Viracopos is the airport which handles most international cargo flights.

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