The Brazilian government is betting on the promotion of official visits and trade events in the Middle East to increase agribusiness exports to the region even further this year. Among the events to count on Brazil's presence there will be international fair Gulfood.
"The Middle East is the regional bloc to which our exports grew the most, and we detected the need for closer relations," said the secretary of Foreign Relations in Agribusiness of the Ministry of Agriculture, Célio Porto.
In addition to the participation at Gulfood, a trade fair for the food sector to be held in Dubai, where the ministry will have a stand in partnership with the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, the secretary wants to go to Saudi Arabia in late February.
These should be the first actions in a series that should involve a visit by the minister of Agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes, to the region in the first half of the year. Furthermore, the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, should return to the Middle East, in the second half of the year.
According to Porto, Lula should travel to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran, which is not an Arab country. This will be the president's third trip to the region since the beginning of his term in office. The first trip took place in December 2003.
The presidential trip, however, will not be aimed solely at discussing issues pertaining to the agricultural sector, but also to several items in the bilateral agenda maintained by the two regions. On the other hand, Stephanes, who will deal with agribusiness only, should visit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria and Egypt.
Agribusiness answers to 66% of Brazilian exports to the Arab world. Shipments of the sector to the region totaled US$ 4.6 billion last year. Still, sales are very much focussed on products such as bovine meat, chicken and sugar, all of which combined account for approximately 80% of total sales.
The goals in actions such as the Gulfood include encouraging expansion of sales of other goods, such as dairy products, fruits and coffee. The majority of the companies that will showcase their products at the ministry's and the Arab Brazilian Chamber's stand belong in those three segments. Below are the main stretches of the interview with Célio Porto:
Why has the ministry decided to promote these actions in the Arab world?
The Middle East is the regional bloc to where our exports grew the most, and we detected the need for closer relations with them.
Why did you choose the Gulfood, in Dubai?
We spoke with the private sector, to the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and the Brazilian foreign office (Itamaraty), and it became clear that the United Arab Emirates are a reference, and that the fair is a meeting point for the sector.
What other activities should count on the ministry's participation this year?
The president of the Republic should travel to the region this year. According to the preliminary schedule, he should go to at least three countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Lebanon. The minister of Agriculture should visit countries that are in our list of priorities, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and will also head to Egypt and Algeria.
The agribusiness export basket to the region is very much centered around a few products. What other goods can be promoted?
Dairy products, fruits and coffee. Some of the commodities for which Brazil is a large exporter, such as soy and corn, are not widely consumed in the region.
Will you attend Gulfood?
I will head to Dubai, where our intentions will be economic and institutional. Then I will travel to Saudi Arabia, but it will be strictly an institutional mission.
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