EspÀrito Santo, a state in southeastern Brazil, has registered 30% growth in fruit production over the last six years. Figures supplied by the EspÀrito Santo State Research, Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Institute (Incaper) show that in 2002, annual fruit production in the state was no greater than 750,000 tons.
It currently covers an area of 85,000 hectares and production is estimated at 1.28 million tons a year.
With this, fruit farming is already in the third place among the state's agricultural produce, with an 18% share of the sector, generating revenues of over 500 million reais (US$ 256 million) a year and some 50,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs.
The greater demand on the foreign market is one of the factors that contributed to the expansion of the state's fruit farming. "It is the agricultural sector that grows most worldwide," stated Aureliano Nogueira, coordinator of the Fruit Farming Program at Incaper.
Nowadays the main markets for fruit from the state of Espírito Santo are European countries like Germany, Belgium, France and England, plus the United States. The United Arab Emirates appear purchasing a small share of state exports, but the Middle East is considered an area of great potential. "The Arab countries are still new markets, but they are very interesting for future investment and prospecting," says Nogueira.
According to information disclosed by the Brazilian Fruit Institute (Ibraf), in 2007 Espírito Santo exported 16,000 tons of fruit. In 2008, from January to August, shipments exceeded 11,000 tons. Papaw is the cash cow for the state, which also exports limes, mangoes, avocado, coconut and guava.
According to Incaper figures, the fruit that presented the greatest expansion in productivity were pineapples, posting their greatest growth in history – leaping from 15 tons per hectare to 45 tons per hectare -, and papaw, whose productivity rose from 40 tons per hectare to 70 tons. Another interesting figure is that there was no significant expansion in the cultivated area.
In Nogueira's opinion, this was only possible due to research and technical assistance, resulting in the release of material resistant to pests and diseases and in varieties with excellent quality and high productivity, to the organization of the state's productive chain, to technical and managerial training, to consolidation of new production areas and to the opening of the foreign market due to the use of technologies that are accepted by the market, including traceability and integrated fruit production.
"These are some of the activities that the state government has been developing to further expand the sector," he said.
The coordinator also pointed out that, despite occupying just 0.5% of the Brazilian territory, the state of Espírito Santo presents great diversity of natural environments, allowing for the production of several kinds of fruit, from tropical ones, in the warm north and northeast of the state, to those more typical of temperate climates, in the state's mountain ranges.
Apart from favourable climate and earth that is appropriate for the production of a large variety of fruit, the state also has privileged geographic positioning, close to great consumer centers in the country, and counts on an agro industrial park.
According to Nogueira, a clear example of the institute's activities to improve the quality of investment of state producers is that, at the end of the 1990s, due to works coordinated by researchers at the organization, the state of Espírito Santo broke the national boundaries and started selling papaw abroad, on commercial scale, to the United States.
Another example comes form banana farming. After decades of research, last year, at a large party that brought over 1,000 farmers to the Incaper Experimental Farm, in Alfredo Chaves, the Institute released two varieties of bananas, named "Japira" and "Vitória", which are resistant to the main diseases that affect the crops, black and yellow Sigatoka and Panama disease. "Before that, farmers worldwide feared these diseases, which threatened to destroy banana farms and the fruit," he adds.
Currently, fruit farming in Espírito Santo is divided into hubs: guava, strawberry, mango, coconut, passion fruit, banana, papaw, grape, pineapple and, now starting, peach. According to Aureliano Nogueira, the establishment of fruit hubs has been greatly used in other regions of the country that are considered important in the production and trade of fruit.
"The concept of hubs not only makes possible production in greater scale but also expands and organizes technical service, investment – through agricultural credit – and the supply of inputs. It also promotes agricultural income and diversification for family based farming," he explains.
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