Brazil Wants the World Drinking Cachaça

 Brazil Wants the World 
  Drinking Cachaça

At present, Brazil
produces 1.3 billion liters of cachaça annually.
But only 1 percent of that is exported. Cachaça, a sugarcane-
based aqua vitae, is Brazil’s most popular distilled alcoholic
beverage. One of the problems with cachaça production
is that 90 percent of it is produced on a mom-and-pop scale.
by: Fabiana
Uchinaka

The idea is to turn Brazil’s most popular distilled alcoholic beverage, a
sugarcane-based aqua vitae known as cachaça, into a premium
drink on world markets. The process is underway at the Brazil Cachaça
2004 fair in São Paulo which opened yesterday.

This is the second annual
cachaça fair sponsored by the Apex (Agência de Promoção
de Exportações—Export Promotion Agency), which is housed
in the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, and the Association
of Cachaça Producers.

This year Apex has brought
in buyers from the United States, Portugal, South Africa, Argentina and Russia.
It is hoped that the fair will generate US$ 4 million (12 million reais) in
new business.

They will join already
faithful aficionados of Brazilian cachaça from Germany (which
is the most faithful foreign buyer; they sipped up 30 percent of all cachaça
exports last year), France, Italy, Spain and England.

At the moment, Brazil
produces 1.3 billion liters of cachaça annually. But only 1
percent of that is exported. One problem is that much of the production is
on a very small scale, practically homemade manufacture.

In fact, 90 percent of
cachaça production is on a mom-and-pop scale run by people who are
unable to get on international markets. So Apex has been working with the
Sebrae (Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas—Small
Business Administration) to unite and organize them so they can start exporting.

That effort has begun
to bear fruit. In 2002, a total of 107 cachaça businesses exported
US$ 10 million. This year the target is for cachaça exports
to reach around US$ 15 million. Apex says it intends to reach that target
by bringing another 146 cachaça manufacturers into the export
sector by the end of this year.

The biggest challenge
the cachaça export sector faces on international markets is
not tariffs, but the question of quality. That will require time and training,
says Murilo Albernaz, who heads Fenaca (Federação Nacional das
Associações dos Produtores de Cachaça de Alambique—National
Association of Alembic Cachaça Producers Association), a cachaça
manufacturer association.

"It may take five
or six years to reach top international quality standards, but we have great
potential. By next year, our exports will begin to jump," he says. The
organizers of the fair are meeting with producers, explaining the requirements
of importers and the ropes of export markets.

The fair ends on Sunday,
July 25. A total of 25,000 visitors are expected to attend.

The Brazilian Drink

Last year, Brazil took
a decisive step towards registering the name "cachaça" as
a national trademark. A decree published on October 3, 2003, presented all
the specifications of the beverage and defined the "caipirinha"
(similar to a daiquiri, but with cachaça, Brazilian sugarcane
spirits, instead of rum). An earlier decree was not clear on these points,
and Brazil ended up exporting cachaça as rum or "other distilled
beverages."

According to Ricardo da
Cunha Cavalcanti Júnior, coordinator of plant inspection in the Ministry
of Agriculture, the Brazilian decision was communicated to the World Customs
Organization (WCO) to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He also informed that
Brazil produces 1.3 billion liters of cachaça per year, and
less than 2 percent are exported, chiefly to Germany, France, Portugal, Japan,
and the United States.

For Cavalcanti Júnior,
Brazil does not desire to stimulate the use of alcoholic beverages, "but
to occupy a market niche for an eminently national product."

Cachaça
is a genuinely Brazilian drink which has become the third most consumed worldwide
(behind vodka and soju).

Pratini de Moraes, Minister
of Agriculture of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s administration, had already
ordered standards to be set for the registration of cachaça
producers so as to make them more competitive domestically and on international
markets.


Fabiana Uchinaka works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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