Other countries in the Middle East have been showing potential to establish themselves as large destinations for Brazilian goods in the region besides the largest markets for Brazil in the Arab world: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco. Such is the case with Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, whose imports of products from Brazil have been growing in a sustained fashion.
Exports to Lebanon, for instance, totaled US$ 159 million in the first half of the year, growth of 38.1% compared with the same period last year. According to a survey by the Market Development manager of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Rodrigo Solano, the performance was driven by shipments of meat, particularly fresh beef, chicken parts and live cattle.
It is worth noting that overall exports of Brazilian beef decreased in the first half, and that chicken parts are considered to be higher value-added products in aviculture. With regard to live cattle, Lebanon has been a regular client of Brazilian farmers for a few years now, and is second only to Venezuela in sector imports, according to information supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Imports of rods also played a significant role, as they went from zero, in the first half of last year they were null, to US$ 12.4 million in the same period this year. The president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Salim Taufic Schahin, stated that Lebanon has always been a hub in terms of attracting investment, particularly in real estate and banking. "The Lebanese banks have grown even amidst the crisis," he said.
Brazilian exports to Yemen generated revenues of US$ 155 million, growth of 38.6% over the first six months of 2008. In this case, the increase in shipments of sugar, the main product in the export basket, had a strong influence on the performance. Sales of chicken meat, the second most important item, showed significant growth in terms of volume, however revenues from shipments recorded a slight retraction, as a result of falling chicken prices in the international market.
Yemen has maintained itself among the main buyers of Brazilian agricultural products in the Arab world. The country that first cultivated coffee on a commercial scale and, out of the Mohka Port, in the Red Sea, spread the beverage around the world, currently does not produce enough food to supply its population, and depends on imports.
Iraq, in turn, imported the equivalent of US$ 96 million from Brazil in the first half of 2009, growth of 61% over the same period last year. The country was an important trade partner with Brazil in the 1980s.
Brazilian sales to Iraq totaled US$ 344 million in 1989, but plummeted after the first Gulf War, in 1990, and only returned to a higher level after the country resumed exporting oil on a commercial scale, in the current decade. Last year, for instance, Iraq shipped to Brazil the equivalent of US$ 1.13 billion in oil, and in the first half of 2009, sales of the commodity from the Arab country to the Brazilian market totaled US$ 307 million.
The growth of exports from Brazil to Iraq was mainly driven by shipments of chicken meat; According to information supplied by the Brazilian Poultry Exporters Association (Abef), Iraq was one of the markets that grew the most in the first half, having recorded growth of 135% over the first six months of 2008. There was also growth in sales of frozen beef and capital goods.
Other countries that may be regarded as "emerging" markets in the Arab world, having maintained a relatively high level of imports of Brazilian products, are Kuwait, with purchases of US$ 148 million in the first half, Bahrain (US$ 121.5 million), Syria (US$ 107.6 million), Qatar (US$ 78.4 million), Libya (US$ 71.6 million) and Tunisia (US$ 68.5 million).
All of these countries, however, have reduced their imports from Brazil in the first six months of the year, at rates ranging from 4%, in the case of Syria, to 50%, in the case of Libya.
Highlights among smaller markets for Brazil in the region were Sudan, which imported the equivalent of US$ 57.8 million in the first half, growth of 140% over the same period of 2008, and Mauritania, which made purchases totaling US$ 48.5 million, growth of 168%.