Brazilian industry has its earliest origin in workshops dating from the beginning of the 19th century. Most of the country's industrial establishments appeared in the Brazilian southeast (mainly in the provinces of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and, later, São Paulo), and, according to the Commerce, Agriculture, Factories and Navigation Joint,[who?] 77 establishments registered between 1808 and 1840 were classified as “factories” or “manufacturers”. However, most, about 56 establishments, would be considered workshops by today's standards, directed toward the production of soap and tallow candles, snuff, spinning and weaving, foods, melting of iron and metals, wool and silk, amongst others. They used both slaves and free laborers.[1]

There were twenty establishments that could be considered in fact manufacturers, and of this total, thirteen were created between the years 1831 and 1840. All were, however, of small size and resembled large workshops more than proper factories. Still, the manufactured goods were quite diverse: hats, combs, farriery and sawmills, spinning and weaving, soap and candles, glasses, carpets, oil, etc. Probably because of the instability of the regency period, only nine of these establishments were still functioning in 1841, but these nine were large and could be considered to “presage a new era for manufactures”.[2]

The advent of manufacturing before the 1840s was extremely limited, due to the self-sufficiency of the rural regions, where farms producing coffee and sugar cane also produced their own food, clothes, equipment, etc., the lack of capital, and high costs of production that made it impossible for Brazilian manufacturers to compete with foreign products. Costs were high because most raw materials were imported, even though some of the plants already used machines.[3]

From a colony whose aim was to export primary goods (sugar, gold and cottom), Brazil has managed to create a diversified industrial base in the 20th century. The steel industry is a prime example of that, with Brazil being the 9th largest producer of steel in 2018,[4] and the 5th largest steel net exporter in 2018.[5] Gerdau is the largest producer of long steel in the Americas, owning 337 industrial and commercial units and more than 45,000 employees across 14 countries. Brazil is also a key player in the aircraft market: Embraer is the third largest producer of civil aircraft right after Boeing and Airbus.[6]