I read that up to 70% of Brazil's sugar cane in the Sao Paulo area is still harvested manually. Some workers are paid $1.50 per tonne. Why is it still being cut manually? Some possibilities:

(1) farm owners lack the capital to buy mechanical harvesters

(2) human labor is cheaper

(3) regulatory or legal obstacles are blocking the use of harvesters

  • $\begingroup$ This is an important question. One comment: (1) If investment is truly very profitable, lack of capital shouldn't explain absence of "better tools". Lack of access to finance is also needed. $\endgroup$
    – snoram
    Jun 27 '16 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ It would be helpful to have a link or reference to where you read this. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '16 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ @LassieFair It seems rather surprising that there should be so much manual harvesting, so those seeing the question may like to see evidence that this is the case before considering possible explanations. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '16 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ @LassieFair Yes, I'm asking for proof or at least evidence. A link would just be one way to provide this. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '16 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @LassieFair What an interesting attitude to take when asking for help. Would you please edit the question so I can remove my upvote? $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Jul 26 '16 at 6:29

Although it seems that it necessarily boils down to the idea that labor is very, very cheap for some reason or another, it is often the case in these situations that workers unions, somewhat perversely, will block the firm´s replacement of labor with capital, in order to keep the workers employed.


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