Rio Grande do Sul Economy

Agriculture and Livestock

With a dizzying expansion of its culture in the 1970s, soybeans became the main agricultural product in Rio Grande do Sul. The production area is widespread throughout the northwestern quadrant of the state and comprises some portions of the central depression and especially the basaltic plateau. Wheat, grown under very different ecological conditions, is grown both in the countryside and in forested areas. In the former, it assumes the character of extensive and mechanized monoculture. In the forest areas it appears as a small crop integrated in the crop rotation system practiced by small farmers. The main producing region is the basaltic plateau, especially its western portion.

Rice is a typical crop in the lower altitude areas of the state. It is almost always an irrigated crop and in the coastal plain, due to the poverty of sandy soils, it receives considerable application of chemical fertilizers. Corn is a widespread crop in areas of forest soils and is commonly associated with pigs, to which it contributes as feed. Cassava has a geographic distribution similar to that of corn. In addition to being used to feed the rural population, it is used as fodder by pig and cattle breeders.

The cultivation of tobacco is concentrated in the region of the lower slope of the Serra Geral, in the areas of the rivers Taquari and Pardo. Another important culture of the state is that of the grape, which is concentrated in the region of the high slope of the Serra Geral, in the areas of the rivers Taquari and Caí.

According to, Rio Grande do Sul stands out for its agricultural production. Cattle raised in the plateau region are mainly used for milk production, while those raised in the south of the state, in large establishments located in the Campanha region, or estancias, are intended for beef. Sheep farming is mainly concentrated in the southernmost part of the Campaign, while pig farming, which absorbs a significant part of the production of maize and cassava, is typical of forest regions.

The natural pastures of the Rio Grande do Sul campaign deserve mention, most of them used in continuous grazing and generally in large farms, in order to allow the expansion of livestock activities, of great repercussion in the regional economy.


Rio Grande do Sul is one of the states with the highest degree of industrialization in the country. The main genre of industry is that of food products, responsible for a substantial portion of the value of factory production. These are followed by metallurgy and the mechanical, chemical, pharmaceutical, clothing and footwear and wood and furniture industries. The industrial area of ​​the Porto Alegre region is the most developed in the state. The main products are refrigerated meats, beef jerky, pasta and soy oil. The footwear and leather goods industry stands out particularly in São Leopoldo and Novo Hamburgo. The mechanical and metallurgical industry also reaches considerable expression, especially in Porto Alegre, Novo Hamburgo and São Leopoldo. These centers are joined by São Jerônimo, which houses the Charqueadas steel plant.

Another industrial area is called the region of ancient colonization, in which the municipalities of Caxias do Sul, Garibaldi, Bento Gonçalves, Flores da Cunha, Farroupilha and Santa Cruz are integrated. The manufacturing activity is marked by the production of wine and the processing of agricultural products, such as leather, lard, corn, wheat and tobacco. In the rest of the state there are several dispersed industrial centers, all linked to the processing of agropastoral raw materials. In this group, Erexim, Passo Fundo, Santana do Livramento, Rosário do Sul, Pelotas, Rio Grande and Bajé stand out.

Among the state’s mineral products, copper and coal stand out. Rio Grande do Sul was a pioneer in oil refining, with the installation, in 1932, of the Sul-Riograndense Distillery, in Uruguaiana. Two oil refineries and a petrochemical complex, which uses raw material from the Petrobrás Alberto Pasqualini refinery (Canoas), give the state a prominent position in the national petrochemical industry. Among the known mineral occurrences are deposits of mineral coal, copper ores, lead, tungsten and rock crystal.

Pine reserves in the north of the state, although already limited in the face of intense exploitation, constitute one of the main plant riches. Herbs, to an appreciable extent, also provide vegetable extraction to meet the large regional consumption. Taniferous vegetables, such as, for example, black wattle, although with reduced production, are included among the main resources of the region.


Among the main power plants in the state are the Passo Fundo hydroelectric plants (220,000kW), on the Uruguay River; Jacuí (150,000kW) and Passo Real (125,000kW), on the Jacuí River; and the Candiota II thermoelectric plants (126,000kW), in Bajé, Charqueadas (72,000kW), in São Jerônimo, and Osvaldo Aranha (66,000kW), in Alegrete.


The railway system develops around the central axis formed by the line that, starting from Porto Alegre, goes west through the central depression, going to reach the border with Argentina, in Uruguaiana. From this longitudinal trunk, several branches come off. Of great significance to the state are the lines that connect it to the rest of the country. One of them leaves Santa Maria, on the longitudinal axis, goes north and crosses the states of Santa Catarina and Paraná. Further east, another line is developed in the north-south direction, passing through Monte Negro, Bento Gonçalves and Vacaria, then cutting east of Santa Catarina and Paraná.

Other branches of the central axis develop in the southern portion of the state. Among them is the Rio Grande-Pelotas, Bajé-Cacequi link, the Jaguarão, Santana do Livramento and Quaraí branches. In the west of the state, the connections between Uruguaiana-São Borja, São Borja-Santa Maria, Santiago-São Luís Gonzaga and Santa Rosa-Cruz Alta are also noted.

The network of paved federal highways has a different configuration: it forms a range of roads that converge to the state capital. Along the north coast, BR-101 runs, which, departing from Osório, reaches Natal RN. Also to the north is the BR-116, which in demand from Curitiba passes through Caxias do Sul and Vacaria. To the northwest, the BR-386 passes through Lajeado and Carazinho. To the southwest, the BR-290 runs towards São Gabriel and Rosário do Sul. Finally, to the south, the Porto Alegre-Pelotas-Chuí link (BR-116 and BR-471) is traced.

The network of transport routes in Rio Grande do Sul also includes two inland navigation systems. The first comprises, in the eastern part of the state, the Mirim and Patos lagoons, the Guaíba river estuary and the Jacuí and Taquari rivers. The second system comprises the rivers Uruguay and its tributary Ibicuí. The ports of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande, Pelotas and São Borja stand out in the state. At the port of Rio Grande, refitted in 1981, liquid bulk terminals, salt, fertilizers, wheat, soybeans, containers, meat, general cargo, minerals and fish are installed. To make better use of its purpose, the Industrial District of Rio Grande was organized next to the port.

Rio Grande do Sul Economy