Brazil is helping the world to become more flowery. This is what flower export figures show: from January to September, foreign flower sales reached US$ 24.2 million – little less than the country exported in the whole of 2005, US$ 25.7 million.
From a greater perspective, the sector has been growing for some years. From 2000 to date, there has been growth of 515%. The figures were disclosed by the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade and by the Brazilian Institute of Floriculture (Ibraflor).
According to the Ibraflor, the expectation is that in 2008 the sector should reach US$ 80 million in shipments.
The figures supplied by the institute show that the largest volume of exports is in ornamental plant saplings. In the first half of this year, exports of saplings represented 53.49% of the total exported, at US$ 8.072 million. The second most sold group is bulbs, tubercles and rhizomes, which represented 28.54% of sales in the period.
Flowers and freshly cut buds represented just 10.12% of exports in the first half. Although still small, the sector’s exports are expanding. The northeastern Brazilian state of Alagoas is an example of an exporter of tropical flowers in bouquets. Every week, exports total 1,500 bouquets to supermarkets in France and Switzerland.
Today, Brazil exports to 30 destinations, being Holland the main buyer. The United States comes in second place in the ranking of importers. Italy, Canada, Spain, Germany and Mexico are some of the other buyers.
"There are still many markets to explore, among them the Arab countries," stated Léa Lagares, the national floriculture coordinator at the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae). "We are, incidentally, open to partnerships to reach that market."
In 1999, the Sebrae started working to support the flower sector. The idea was to decentralize production, up to then concentrated in the state of São Paulo, and to help make the entire productive chain more professional.
In the beginning, there were just two programs, one in the state of Alagoas and another in Rio Grande do Sul. Today, there are 37 projects.
"Our objective is to show the importance of floriculture, and to show that it can grow in the Brazilian economy. There is enormous biodiversity, varied climates and labor to expand production," explained Léa Lagares.
Each project, she says, has its peculiarities. It is in the hands of the Sebrae, and of the 129 partners – universities, banks, institutes, etc. – to adapt to what the cooperatives, associations and groups of businessmen want. "Each one has a focus. One plans to increase production, another to export, and so on," stated Lea.
According to the coordinator, in Brazil a policy that favors the sector is still lacking. It is necessary to improve the matter of logistics, as exporting flowers is complicated because it must be fast. "Apart from that, it is necessary to develop technology, marketing and to export more products with greater added value, like bouquets and flower arrangements," she explained.
There are in Brazil, for example, many "improvers", professionals turned to developing species. They improve a plant, promote their modification and are paid royalties for their discovery.
"Flowers are fashion. Research is necessary, testing to see whether they attract people. This requires investment," stated the Sebrae coordinator, who is in Holland, where she will stay until Sunday, November 5, with a group of flower producers from the city of Barbacena, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, to participate in fair Hortfair, the largest in the sector.
If exporting more and more is the sector’s ambition, selling on the domestic market is too. If the current production were multiplied by ten, it would not yet be enough to supply the domestic market.
There are many potential buyers in Brazil. However, Brazilians are not habitual flower buyers. While in Europe the annual per capita consumption is US$ 50, in Brazil, it is just US$ 6.
"Here flower purchases are focussed on three dates: Valentines (in Brazil on June 12), Mother’s Day (celebrated on the second Sunday of May in Brazil) and All Souls Day (on November 2).
People do not have the habit of taking flowers home, to work," stated Léa. The work developed by the Sebrae also involves a partnership with flower designers and organizers of events.
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