The Expansion of Industrial Tree Plantations and Dispossession in Brazil


  • Markus Kröger

    1. University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Studies (Political Science, Unioninkatu 37, PO Box 54, 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; e-mail: He is currently an Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, studying natural resource politics and the global political economy, particularly the role of social movements in forestry and mining conflicts in Brazil and India.
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I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for excellent recommendations which substantially improved this article. I am also grateful to the editors, all those helping to conduct the field research in Brazil and giving their time for interviews, and to Peter Evans, Ruth Reitan, Sid Tarrow, Jan-Erik Nylund, Adalberto Franklin, Winnie Overbeek, Teivo Teivainen and Jussi Pakkasvirta.


The recent expansion of tree plantations is the most important agrarian change in many parts of Brazil. This article uses the results of extensive field research to analyse the different ways paper and pulp companies assure their land base for eucalyptus plantations. The mechanisms of land access have changed little over the decades, amounting to a process of primitive accumulation which seems to be controlled by the ways the pulp industry influences land markets and prices, the strength of any resistance, and particularly the government support enjoyed by industry. Many paper and steel companies, either directly or indirectly, are increasingly relying on eucalyptus plantations, with negative impacts in many places. The expansion of tree monocultures with rural exclusion is characteristic of the wider phenomenon of land grab which is driven by the dominating financial logic of current capitalism.