Rio Grande do Norte Economy

Rio Grande do Norte Economy and Culture


Agriculture and Livestock

The most important agricultural product in Rio Grande do Norte is cotton. The tree variety is cultivated in the areas with the lowest rainfall, in lands of the wild and the caatinga. The main producing area, located in the south of the state, comprises the Borborema wilderness and the semi-arid area located west of the plateau, the Seridó region. Secondly, as a crop with wide geographical distribution, beans appear, cultivated both in the wetter soils of the alluvial plains and mountain ranges of the sertão, or in caatinga lands, as a mixed crop, linked to corn and cotton.

Next, in decreasing order of importance, are maize, cassava and agave. The latter, introduced in the second half of the twentieth century, expanded in the agreste region. Contrary to what occurs in the other states of the Northeast, the cultivation of sugar cane occupies a modest position in Rio Grande do Norte.

Although recent and without tradition in the state, the culture of cashew is the second in the country, only inferior to that of Ceará. Rio Grande do Norte also produces melon, coconut, sweet potatoes and mangoes. Among the extractive vegetable products, we highlight the carnauba, which is abundant in the floodplains of the Apodi and Piranhas rivers (the state exports wax) and the octica (the extraction and processing of oil constitute a flourishing industry). Elastic gums, angico peels and panels are also explored.

The state herd has a generalized geographic distribution, with a certain density in the wild. However, most of the animals are found in the hinterland, in pastures formed from old caatinga lands. Small farms are commonly built on farms in the backlands, and forage is planted in some areas, especially the palm (cactus). Animal feed is usually supplemented with cottonseed cake, a by-product of the extraction of cottonseed oil.


According to, the main manufacturing industry in the state is textiles, both in terms of the number of establishments and the number of employed persons and the volume of production. Also noteworthy are food products, the clothing and fabric artifacts industry and the chemical industry. The degree of geographic concentration of this industry is low, due to the large number of cotton processing units scattered throughout the state.

In second place is the food products industry, in which the sugar mills of the coastal region stand out. The following are the sectors of clothing and fabric artifacts and the chemical industry.

The extraction of mineral products reaches great importance in the economy of the state, which is the largest producer of sea salt in the country. Production, which today has a high rate of mechanization, is concentrated on the north coast, especially in the municipalities of Macau, Mossoró and Areia Branca. Very rich in minerals, Rio Grande do Norte is also the largest national producer of tungsten (shelite), operated in the Currais Novos region and almost entirely destined for the foreign market. The state is also an oil producer (the main field is Uburana, on the continental shelf) and new deposits were discovered in the early 1990s. The state also has important occurrences of marble, gypsum, tantalite, limestone, beryl and mineral waters.

Energy and transport

The production of electric energy is very low and, in general, comes from thermal plants, because the nature of the rivers does not allow its use. The state is supplied by Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco.

The main highways are the BR-101, which connects Natal to Recife, Salvador and the south of the country, and the BR-304, which leaves the capital and cuts through the state towards Fortaleza CE. In order to solve the problem of disposal of salt production, the federal government built artificial islands in the ports of Macau and Areia Branca equipped with berths to the freighters. These are loaded automatically by a system of overhead cables provided with buckets. The busy port of Natal has an access channel 100 meters wide and 5.9 meters deep.


Cultural entities

Rio Grande do Norte has important cultural entities, among which stand out the Historical and Geographic Institute that publishes a Magazine since 1903, the Academia Norte-Rio-Grandense de Letras and the Associação Norte-Rio-Grandense de Astronomia, all with headquarters in the capital. Among the libraries, those of the José Augusto Foundation, of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, the Central, that of the Historical and Geographic Museum and the Câmara Cascudo Library should be mentioned. The largest public library in the interior is the Municipality of Mossoró.


The most important museums in the state are the Museum of Art and History, of the Historical and Geographic Institute, known as the Sobradinho Museum, the oldest and which has precious collections of sacred, popular and indigenous art, and historical documents, and the Museum Cascudo Chamber, of anthropology. Also noteworthy are the Museum of Popular Art – located in Forte dos Reis Magos -, the Aristophanes Fernandes Museum, of taxidermy, and the one of the Institute of Marine Biology, of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, all in the capital.

Architectural collection

The state has several listed monuments, among which the most important is the Forte dos Reis Magos, the initial landmark of the occupation of the territory and whose bastion started construction on January 6, 1598. Also in the capital, the statue of Augusto stands out Severo, the bust of Pedro Velho de Albuquerque Maranhão, the monument to Independence, the obelisk in honor of Father Miguelinho and André de Albuquerque.


The main points of tourist attraction of the state are, besides the Forte dos Reis Magos, the beaches of Pirangi, Ponta Negra, Areia Preta, do Meio, Forte and Redinha. In the latter there is a curious system of dunes that runs in parallel along the coast, characterized by numerous succession of capontas, that is, true freshwater lakes, the length of which reaches up to ten thousand square meters. Other tourist attractions are the Manuel Filipe lagoon, the lighthouse of Mãe Luísa, the church of Santo Antônio, the chapel of Reis Magos, the open market of Alecrim, the cashew tree of Piranji, with a canopy of seven thousand square meters, in Piranji do Norte , 26km from the capital; and the launching pad of Barreira do Inferno, in the municipality of Parnamirim, twenty kilometers from the capital.


The main popular events in the state are folkloric exhibitions: fandango, pastoris, lapinha, chegança (from the Christmas cycle), boi-calemba, hula hoop, congo. Typical dances are the saw, a xote danced by two or three pairs only, and the Bahian, a live dance with individual choreography.

The culinary highlights include acaçá, a cornmeal or rice cake that is cooked with water and salt until it is gelatinous; alambica, jerimum cooked with bacon; aritica, beans with rapadura, and aluá, a drink of indigenous origin fermented from pineapple or corn and sugar.

Rio Grande do Norte Economy