Brazilian diplomats based in China, Japan, the United States, the European Union and the Emirates are among the 23 officials now in Brazil participating in the Brazilian Agribusiness Immersion Program. Promoted by Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, the meeting started July 6 and will end on July 17.
Over the course of two weeks, these diplomats are going to visit municipalities in the states of Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Bahia, São Paulo and Paraná in order to gain further knowledge of the meats, coffee, fruit, sugar and alcohol, dairy and grain sectors.
"The aim is to bring diplomats based in strategic regions (that are either leading foreign markets for Brazilian agribusiness or potential importers) for them to become acquainted with the reality of Brazilian agriculture in all of its aspects, such as quality, productivity, sanitation, environment, law," says Célio Porto, the Brazilian Agribusiness Foreign Relations secretary.
According to Porto, the United Arab Emirates have been selected because the country is an entrepot for the Arab market. "The country is strategically located. Proof of that is that one of the Business Centers of the Apex (Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency) is in Dubai," says the secretary.
"In the case of Saudi Arabia, which is represented by the Brazilian ambassador to Riyadh (Sérgio Luiz Canaes), besides being the main Arab country in terms of income and population, it has already shown interest in investing in Brazilian agribusiness," he added.
According to him, on the occasion of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's visit to the country, approximately two months ago, the possibility of establishing partnerships between the two countries was discussed, including the supplying of raw material for fertilizer manufacturing by the Saudi government, in exchange for Brazilian foodstuffs.
The diplomats are also going to get to know the actions carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply for ensuring the quality of Brazilian products in the fields of sanitary defense, inspection, laboratorial support, and port operation.
"This is a very important program for diplomats to be able to answer questions pertaining to agribusiness. The program is turned to business prospecting, expansion of the export capacity, attraction of investors interested in establishing partnerships with farmers and cooperatives, and the building of new industries," explained the secretary.
Besides, the diplomats will have contact with sectoral organizations. "Any question that comes up will be directly clarified by those in charge," he said.
In the first day of the meeting in the Brazilian capital Brasília, an overview of Brazilian agribusiness was presented. The figures show that grain production grew 132% from 1991 to 2009, the equivalent to 4.8% per year.
Figures supplied by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) indicate that 31.3% of the Brazilian territory consists of farming land, with 68.7% being used for other purposes. Out of the total farming land, 64.8% are used as pasture, and 21.8% are used for agriculture.
In the 2007/2008 crop, 2.3 million hectares were turned to coffee, 7 million to sugarcane, 14.3 million to corn, 21.6 to soy, and 172.3 million hectares consisted of grazing land.
The schedule of the diplomats in Brazil includes visits to private properties, cooperatives, animal slaughter industries, ethanol and sugar manufacturing, and also the Port of Paranaguá. In the last day of the event, they should make visits to the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), and they should also attend a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply in order to wrap up and evaluate the program.
According to Porto, the Ministry intends to promote the event on an annual basis, so as to provide training to the new diplomats in the strategic regions, as the professionals move from one embassy or consulate to another from three to three years.
Starting in September, Brazil will have eight agricultural chargés whose main objective will be to advertise the Brazilian agricultural potential. According to Porto, they will be based in Brussels, Geneva, Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, South Africa, Washington and Buenos Aires.
"The budget has been passed this year, and the edict will be issued this month. The positions were created in 2004. Had it been today, then the United Arab Emirates would certainly receive one of the charges d'affaires," says the secretary. According to him, in the future, the positions may be relocated and reassigned on an as-needed basis.