Brazil, in spite of the international financial crisis, should maintain agribusiness exports to traditional importers and grow by winning new markets. This was one of the conclusions reached at the meeting held in São Paulo city, on December 9, to set priorities and strategies for Brazilian agricultural foreign trade.
The encounter was promoted by the Agribusiness Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRI), of the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply,
"Demand should be sustained because people are not going to refrain from eating. And some of the countries that were in the market before are going down, because they will have problems producing surplus food. Brazil, on the other hand, is going to maintain itself, and may grow by conquering those spaces," said the International Relations secretary, Célio Porto, who attended the meeting.
"This was an exceptional year because prices were high and made the market competitive. Now that prices are low, the challenge is to also benefit from the decreased competitiveness of some countries in order to open up new markets," he stated.
For the optimistic forecast to come to fruition, however, according to him, the country is going to need to do its homework. Strategic actions forecasted for 2009 include promoting agribusiness abroad by means of participation in trade fairs and missions.
Among these events, participation has already been confirmed in the annual Gulfood trade fair, which next year will take place from February 1st to 3rd, in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
Gulfood is an exhibition turned to manufacturers, distributors and suppliers from around the world that represent the key food industries and hotels in the Arab market, which is already a large market for Brazilian agribusiness.
Apart from the fair, Brazil is going to promote at least one mission to North Africa and the Middle East next year. The two are import target markets for Brazilian exports in the sector. "We do not know the date yet and do not know which are going to be the destination countries. But we can anticipate that the mission is going to take place in the second half of 2009," said Eduardo Sampaio Marques, director at the International Agribusiness Promotion Department.
In the opinion of Porto, the coming of importers to Brazil is even more important, when it comes to promoting the agribusiness production chain, than Brazilian missions to other countries. "Foreign businessmen are always impressed by the Brazilian production volume and potential," he said.
One sector that commands respect is the Brazilian chicken meat industry, which produced 10.2 million tons this year. Of those, 3.5 million were exported, equivalent to US$ 5.5 billion. Pork production reached 3 million tons; approximately 560,000 tons were exported, and the sector answered to the creation of 850,000 jobs.
According to the Domestic Market director at the Brazilian Pork Exporters Association (Abipecs), Jurandi Soares Machado, in 2009, pork production should total 3.1 million tons. Sector exports are stable and show promise of opening up markets such as Japan, China and the United States.
"It is worth noting that 2008 should go down in the history of the pork industry, because the domestic market consolidated itself, sales increased and the price of export products rose," he asserted.
Furthermore, Brazil should also add value to its exports. One example is exports of animal genetic material, which have been showing year-on-year growth since 2003, when the export project of the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and the Brazilian Zebu Breeders Association (ABCZ) began.
Also at the meeting, current industry figures were presented. Brazilian exports closed 2008 with a surplus. In the first 11 months of the year, foreign sales totaled US$ 67 billion, growth of 26.8% over the same period in 2007. The agribusiness trade surplus grew by more than US$ 10 billion, from US$ 45.9 billion from January to November 2007 to US$ 56.1 billion in the same period of 2008.
The main sectors responsible for rising exports during the period were the soy complex (oil, chaff and grain), with 59.9%, meats (33.5%), forestry products (8.4%), the sugar and alcohol complex (16.3%) and coffee (21.9%).
In an analysis by separate countries, there has been an increase of 72.8% in sales to China, which is currently the main destination for Brazilian agribusiness exports in the accumulated result for 2008. This market had 11.6% participation in Brazilian agribusiness exports, exceeding the Netherlands (9.2%) and the United States (8.7%). Exports to Venezuela (113%), Thailand (78%), Saudi Arabia (50.3%), Japan (41.6%) and Russia (31.2%), also showed significant growth.
With regard to the speculations regarding credit reduction, Porto explained that there has been recovery in the volume of Advances on Exchange Contracts (ACCs) granted by banks to export sectors. The secretary also believes that the agricultural sector should be less affected than the durable goods sector. "The fundamental factors that caused the rise in food prices this year remain. The crisis has affected the prices but, in the long run, they should return to more profitable levels," he said.
One of the concerns of the secretary is the price of inputs and pesticides in 2009. The SRI plans to propose measures to reduce the cost of imports and to simplify direct trade between international suppliers and Brazilian buyers. The exploration of new reserves in Brazil should also be an alternative to reduce the price of inputs.
Faced with this scenario, secretary Porto stated that the international financial crisis should not interfere in the estimates of study "Projections for Brazilian Agribusiness from 2008/2009 to 2018/2019," disclosed recently by the Agriculture Ministry, which shows that Brazil should dominate a large share of international trade of products over the next 10 years.
"The parameters used for the forecasts are historic and do not consider long term variables. Brazil may have problems in the short run, but more due to prices than to volume," he said.
According to the document, Brazilian exports of beef should represent 60.6% of the global volume in 2018, against 31% today, and chicken sales, 89.7%, against 44.6% nowadays. In the case of sugar, participation of Brazil in global exports should rise from 58.4% to 74.3% in the same period, in the case of soy oil, the growth should be from 63% to 73.5%, soy should expand from 36% to 40% and maize from 13% to 21.4%.
According to figures in the study, the cropland, in turn, should grow by 15.5 million hectares, or 21% over the 70 million or so hectares used nowadays. That is, the growth in production should be much larger than the growth of areas occupied by farmland.