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12/05/2017 - 18:04hs
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Brazilians to rekindle agribusiness ties in the Gulf

A delegation led by Brazil’s Agriculture minister Blairo Maggi will travel to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. The goal is to demonstrate the quality of Brazilian goods and to draw investors in.



São Paulo – The Brazilian minister of Agriculture Blairo Maggi will lead a business and government delegation to four Arab countries as of this weekend: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Ministry officials will be accompanied by delegates from companies and other private sector organizations, including the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.

“One of the goals of the trip is to thank the technical, solid way in which the Arab countries reacted to the Federal Police operation,” said to ANBA the International Agribusiness Relations secretary Odilson Luiz Ribeiro e Silva, referencing operation Carne Fraca (Portuguese for Weak Flesh), a probe into a bribery scheme involving meat packers and Ministry inspectors.

Alexandre Rocha/ANBA

Arab ambassadors visited a meat packing facility in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Some countries went so far as to partly ban imports of meat from Brazil when the operation was launched. The Ministry insisted from the start that only a small number of meat packing companies and officials were under suspicion, and that the case did not concern the entire industry. Twenty-one facilities are under probe.

“We would like to enhance our ties in trade, investments and cooperation with these countries,” said Silva, stressing that the Gulf nations are long-time importers of Brazilian agribusiness products, especially poultry. Saudi Arabia, for instance, was the fourth biggest buyer of Brazilian agriculture and livestock products from January to April this year, with the UAE ranking at 19th.

In the first four months of 2017, Brazilian agribusiness exports to the four countries that the delegation will travel to came out to USD 1.363 billion, up 12% from a year ago, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. The Middle East is the region that buys the most poultry from Brazil in the world. “These are very important markets to us, they are long-time partners, and there is a vast potential that is yet untapped,” Silva declared.

Arab Brazilian Chamber presidente Rubens Hannun said the trip is “very relevant,” because it brings government and the private sector together to “show how important the Arab countries are to Brazilian agribusiness.”

“A Brazilian minister of Agriculture hadn’t been to the region for a long time, and this trip underscores the country’s position of wanting to show what operation Carne Fraca was really about,” said Hannun. “And this is the position of the Arab Chamber: to convey in a transparent way to our partners, the Arab countries, the procedures that are in place in Brazil,” he added.

The Arab Chamber is working intensively on this issue. After the operation began, the organization helped arrange a meeting of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil with secretary Silva and Ministry technicians; later on, it took the diplomats on a visit to a meat packer in Rio Grande do Sul that carries out halal chicken slaughter, in accordance with Muslim tradition. The Chamber also supported the visit of a Saudi Food and Drug Authority staff to Brazil last month, and it has relayed information back and forth between governments and private sector players.

“We will give explanations regarding the quality of Brazilian product,” said Arab Chamber CEO Michel Alaby. He also stressed the relevance of a visit by an Agriculture minister to the region after so many years . “This direct connection with the Ministry will strengthen trade relations between Brazil and the Arab countries,” he asserted.

Business

More than guaranteeing the quality of Brazilian product, the delegation intends to promote deal-making. According to Silva, there will be 20 delegates representing roughly 25 agribusiness companies. In addition to attending several meetings with authorities in the destination countries, there will be seminars and meetings with executives and prospective investors.

These companies will present their agribusiness projects in Brazil, which could be targeted by investors in the region. “We will show that it is legally safe to invest in Brazil, that capitals flow freely here, and that the industry has the potential to finance itself through private funds,” the secretary remarked.

Hannun added that the mission is a chance to underscore the role Brazil can play in ensuring food security in Arab countries, especially those in the Gulf. Since the region’s climate is very dry, its nations are forced to import most of their food, and governments as well as investors are seeking out agriculture projects overseas to invest in and thus make sure their markets are properly supplied.

The Arab Chamber wants the Arab nations to regard Brazil more and more as its preferred purveyor of agribusiness products, as well as for Brazil to regard Arab countries as a priority market. “Showcasing the potentialities of Brazil’s agribusiness is part of a plan we are working on to enhance our partnership with Arab countries in food security,” said Hannun. “We will stress the point that they can count on us. As a chamber of commerce, it is our duty to facilitate this relation,” he said.

Michel Alaby claimed that the Chamber will underscore its role as a “catalyst of information on enterprises, trade and investment opportunities in Brazil.”

Secretary Odilson Silva revealed that the Brazilian government intends to step up cooperation with the Arab countries in science and technology; one of the delegates is the president of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), Maurício Antonio Lopes.

The trip begins on Sunday in Kuwait City. Afterwards, the group will head to Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, then to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and finally Doha, in Qatar. They are slated to return to Brazil on the 23rd. ANBA will provide full coverage on a daily basis.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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