Brazil has an elite squad of 26 specialists around the world who work on behalf of the country’s agribusiness interests. They are the agricultural attachés, public servants linked to the Ministry of Agriculture and Supply (MAPA) who have the task of advocating and showing the world the excellence of Brazilian agriculture. They work on identifying opportunities, challenges, and possibilities of trade, investments, and cooperation, contributing to the strategy of expanding Brazilian agribusiness share in the global market.
Agricultural attachés are currently stationed in 26 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium (European Union), Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. Together, these countries accounted for US$ 94.5 billion of Brazilian exports of agricultural products in 2021. This represents 78.4% of the total amount exported last year.
The attaché selection process is strict and includes curricular analysis, discursive test, and personal interview. One of its requirements is that the candidate has been, for at least 10 years, a public servant or employee of a public or mixed capital federal company. Proficiency in a foreign language is also a requirement for participation.
These professionals are bridge builders between Brazilian agribusiness and the world. As they are stationed in Brazilian embassies abroad, they work together with the diplomatic corps, adding specific knowledge on agriculture. As the third-largest food exporter in the world, the agricultural sector plays a significant role in Brazil’s trade relations with several countries. In this sense, the attachés allow the approximation amongst MAPA’s technical sectors, embassies, and Brazilian government interlocutors and from the countries where they are stationed, speeding up and qualifying the exchange of information.
Unlike other sectors, the local government must approve the entry of most agricultural products into a country. The negotiation of sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, product by product, is conducted by MAPA. Having a Ministry representative—who is also a specialist in the area and is physically present in the importing country—is a differential aspect.
Just as diplomatic representations assist Brazilian citizens abroad, the attachés support the national productive sector, bringing importers and exporters together, stimulating mutual investments, prospecting business opportunities, identifying trends, and actively acting in trade promotion actions for agricultural products.
Some figures show the relevance of agricultural attachés. Since 2019, MAPA has recorded the opening of 210 new international markets for agro products. About 65% of this total were working posts with attachés. Examples on this list are the opening of Colombia to import apples, Argentina for eggs, Vietnam for cattle, and Mexico for Brazilian fish.
In the same period, more than 2 thousand new premises of products of animal origin were authorized to export to several countries. There were advances in export list diversification and the tools for exchanging information, with the chance of using digitized International Phytosanitary Certificates (Certificados Fitossanitários Internacionais – IFCs) in some countries to replace printed and signed documents that had to go along every load.
Moreover, the attachés monitor regulatory issues in the countries in which they are stationed and work in international negotiations, seeking solutions to the barriers imposed on Brazilian products. They also advocate Brazilian interests in several international forums, such as the Codex Alimentarius, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), among others.
The attachés have the role of spokespersons for Brazilian agribusiness abroad, disseminating aspects of sustainability, productivity, and health of national agricultural production, aiming at advocating and strengthening Brazil’s image as a reliable partner, with great contributions to the world’s food security.
At a time when the world is going through crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, concerns about food security increase. Countries that depend on food imports to ensure domestic supply seek guarantees from their suppliers that there will be no export disruption. This is a legitimate concern. A survey carried out by a study center in the United States showed that the war led 23 countries to adopt protectionist measures in the food sector. In this scenario, the work of attachés as reliable sources for conveying technical and truthful information to Brazil’s trading partners becomes even more relevant.
Sueme Mori is Director of International Relations at the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA)
Source: Agência Estado – Broadcast