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Agriculture in Rio Grande do Sul
Waves of immigrants began to arrive in Rio Grand do Sul. First came the Germans who established themselves in the Vale do Rio dos Sinos, close to Porto Alegre, the state capital; then came the Italians who headed towards the mountain ridges and the towns of Caxias do Sul, Flores da Cunha, Bento Gonçalves and Garibaldi where they planted vines and started producing wine. Nowadays this region, which provided the setting for the film, "O Quatrilho" by Fábio Barreto, that competed for an Oscar for the best foreign film of 1995, is Brazil's largest producer of wine. According to information from the Rio Grande do Sul wine co-operatives, the state produces and markets 91% of Brazil's wine production.

For a long time the economy was based on production by large beef cattle farms, but later became diversified with the arrival of the German and Italian immigrants who settled in rural smallholdings and supplied Rio Grande do Sul and other states with agricultural products.

Until the present time, Gaúcho agriculture has been based on rural smallholdings so that the state became known as the granary of Brazil, responsible for 25% of the country's grain production, mainly in the form of soya, wheat, rice and maize. According to the Brazilian Geographical and Statistical Institute (IBGE), Rio Grande do Sul provides 48% of the country's rice, 76% of oats and 48% of tobacco. Research undertaken by the UN has revealed that Rio Grande do Sul is currently the Brazilian state with the best Human Development Index according to per capita income indicators, school attendance and life expectancy.

With a flock numbering 13.9 million head of cattle and 10 million head of sheep, the state is also a major meat producer. Its beef - with which the Gaúchos make the best barbecues in the world - is acclaimed both in Brazil and abroad. The leather and shoe industries are spin-offs from cattle production and together with the metal, chemical and petrochemical industries, occupy an important position within the state. Also, in connection with the petrochemical industry, the state is planning a major investment in the duplication of the Triunfo region and the Alberto Pasqualini refinery in Canoas.

The habit of taking chimarrão (a herb tea drunk from a gourd), the wearing of wide-legged trousers (a type of national costume), cooking on an earth barbecue and incorporating Castilian Spanish expressions in the dialect are some of the features that characterize the Gaucho, particularly those who were born and brought up in the pampas, the plains that form one of the most striking landscapes in the region. As well as the plains, other Gaúcho landscapes can be seen by anyone crossing this state, the gateway between Brazil and her southern neighbours, Uruguay and Argentina. Among the places of interest are the beaches, the National Park of Aparados da Serra, the highlands region and towns such as Pelotas, with its 19th century art nouveau buildings and legacies from the past, such as wrought-iron structures scattered around the town and left by the English at the beginning of the century.

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