Brazilian exports to the Arab world returned to strong growth in March. According to figures supplied by Brazil's Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade and compiled by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, shipments generated US$ 807.35 million, growth of over 50% when compared to last year and 66.6% over February 2009.
The performance in the month inverted a reduction tendency that had been registered in January and February, and caused accumulated sales in the first quarter to present growth of 4.1% over the same period last year, reaching US$ 1.84 billion. In March, total exports of Brazil dropped 6.37% over the same month in 2008. In the accumulated result for the first quarter, they dropped 19.4%.
"In these first three months there has already been a return to growth, which grants us greater energy," said the president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Salim Taufic Schahin. "I am more optimistic today than in January," he added.
Since he was inaugurated president at the Chamber, in January, Schahin has already traveled to Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Qatar and Egypt, where he met political and business leaders in the nations. "The perception is that the Arab world should not suffer so much with the crisis as should central economies," he said. "What has happened is a reduction in investment made [by the Arabs] in developed nations," he said.
Although he said that it is hard to make forecasts as to how business is going to behave by the end of the year, he pointed out that the crisis has been presenting signs of improvement. In the case of Brazil, for example, the São Paulo Stock Exchange Index (Ibovespa) returned to relatively constant growth, exceeding 50,000 points yesterday (4th), the highest level since September 2008, and there is lower fluctuation of the exchange market.
In the evaluation of the president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, exports from Brazil to the Arab world should continue growing. He believes that two-digit growth is possible by the end of 2009. In the case of imports, the scenery is different, once the price of oil is much lower than it was last year and production by Brazilian oil giant Petrobras has returned to being higher than consumption in the country.
Salim pointed out that during the year there should still be events that may further boost business with the Arabs, like the visit of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Saudi Arabia, in the second half of May, and a trip to Brazil headed by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, late this month.
In March there was mainly growth in exports of iron ore, sugar, aircraft, soy in grain, soy oil, tobacco, tractors, rebar, maize, live cattle, soy chaff and electric engines.
With regard to destinations, special attention goes to Saudi Arabia, which bought the equivalent to US$ 170 million from Brazil, growth of 26% over March 2008, Egypt, with US$ 147.5 million, growth of 119% and the United Arab Emirates, with US$ 111 million, growth of 41%. There was above average growth in sales to Lebanon (213%), Morocco (150%), Mauritania (144%), Syria (53%), Libya (92%) and Iraq (57%).
Brazilian imports of Arab products, in turn, dropped from US$ 804 million in March 2008 to US$ 233 million in March this year, and US$ 2.17 billion in the first quarter of last year to US$ 737 million in the same period in 2009, resulting in a US$ 574 million trade balance surplus for Brazil in the month and US$ 1.1 billion in the year. There were reductions in sales of oil, fuels and fertilizers.