From the dry goods and beverage store to large industry. The route that made fortunes for scores of Arab immigrants in Brazil was the same followed, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, by the Zattar family.
A traditional company in the wood sector in the state, established 72 years ago, Indústrias Zattar is entering the 21st century with good reasons for commemoration: production of pine plywood tripled between 2002 and 2004, rising from 6,000 cubic meters to 18,000 cubic meters.
And the forecasts are pleasing. Miguel Zattar Filho, the director-president of the company, forecasts growth of 8% in exports this year.
With a solid base on the North American and European market, the company does not ignore the possibility of diversifying its list of clients. “Europe is our greatest market, but the Middle East has good perspectives,” stated Zattar.
He recalls that the company has already had business with the region, through Madebrás, a trading company established in the 1970’s by his father.
“We have a forecast of expanding production in the next five years and, through necessity, will not focus on just one market. Therefore, our first option will be the Middle East.”
Indústrias Zattar has an export profile. According to the main company executive, almost 100% of the plywood produced by the company is sold abroad. Only sporadic deals are on the Brazilian market.
The product is used by companies in the civil construction, furniture and industrial packaging sectors in Europe and the United States. On the Old Continent the main buyers are Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Among the buyers are German carmakers, like BMW, Audi and Volkswagen.
Apart from producing inputs that permit multiple jobs, Zattar invests in afforestation. With this, the company plans to maintain a stock of wood that will make it possible to feed its industrial process and supply raw materials to other industries in the sector.
The company pine forest has doubled in the last five years, rising from 1,500 hectares to 3,000. Another company bet is the planting of eucalyptus. While one pine tree takes around 20 years to reach the cutting stage for industrial usage, eucalyptus takes around 7 years.
It is a mistake, however, to associate the image of this lumber company to that of a destroyer of forests. Indústrias Zattar has 50,000 hectares of land in the center-south region of Paraná, of which 40,000 are preserved native forest.
At the company industrial base, located in the city of Pinhão, close to Guarapuava – a city that is 258 kilometers away from state capital Curitiba -, it employs 800 people, among them company workers and third party service providers.
The company history, however, began way back, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. More precisely in the city of Zahle, in the middle eastern region of Lebanon, the capital of the province of Bekaa.
It was from there that, at the beginning of the last century, the great-grandparents of Miguel Zattar Filho, Yussef Zattar and his wife Hendi, migrated to Brazil, accompanied by their eldest daughter, Naine.
Arriving at Paranaguá port, they moved to the city of Morretes, also on the coast of Paraná, where they decided to live. There, Hendi, who was pregnant when she came from Lebanon to Brazil, gave birth to João José Zattar.
The family travelled up the coastal mountain range after better conditions and arrived in the region of Fernandes Pinheiro, close to the city of Irati, in the center-south region of Paraná state. Repeating the saga of many Arab immigrants who arrived in Brazil at the time.
Yussef – currently using a Portuguese version of his name, José – established a dry goods and beverage warehouse where he sold, among other products, wooden products and construction material. This was the first family contact with what would be the source of their prosperity.
In 1932 João José Zattar, Miguel’s grandfather, established a sawmill, starting production of soapboxes. In 1944, Indústrias João José Zattar became a joint-stock company. Returning to business with the Arab world is, therefore, returning to its roots.
Omar Nasser works for the Federation of Industries of the State of Paraná.
ANBA – Brazil-Arab News Agency