If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a trip is worth a thousand pictures. This sentence reflects properly the feeling of a group of foreign diplomats who, at the invitation of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), spent four days learning about the agriculture and livestock sector in the Mato Grosso state.
The delegation was made up of 12 diplomats from 10 countries and the European Union (EU) who visited cooperatives, talked to producers, and learned how the research developed by EMBRAPA supports the enhancement in productivity and sustainability of national agricultural production.
Mato Grosso is the third largest Brazilian state, with an area of just over 900 thousand km2. Compared to the territory of the Netherlands, one of the nations represented on the trip, Mato Grosso is almost 22 times larger than that country.
The state’s gigantism goes beyond its area. In terms of agriculture and livestock production, it ranks first in beef cattle, soy, corn, and cotton.
If the Brazilians who were part of the delegation were surprised by what they saw, it is no wonder that at the end of the trip the foreign diplomats had a different view of national agriculture and livestock than they previously had.
Brazil is a country of continental dimensions and an extremely diverse one. The EU, which brings together 27 countries, has half the Brazilian area. It is common sense that Greece is different from Spain. However, for those who don’t know Brazil, the generalization about its territory is a recurring mistake.
Promoted by CNA, initiatives such as this visiting program, called AgroBrazil, have a multiplier effect. Several diplomats who were in Mato Grosso said that they intend to take other representatives of their countries to know in loco the reality of Brazilian agriculture and livestock production.
Given the sector relevance, in general, foreign diplomatic representations pay special attention to the Brazilian agriculture sector. Most embassies based in Brazil have either an Agricultural Attaché or a diplomat responsible for agricultural matters.
Products from Brazilian agriculture and livestock are traded in more than 190 countries. The sector’s success story is remarkable. In 2000, the country’s agricultural exports totaled almost US$ 24 billion. In 2010, that amount rose to around US$ 76 billion, and last year it reached US$ 120.5 billion. This is a leap of 486% in 21 years.
From the productivity point of view, there is no doubt that Brazil is a world power. In addition to being the third-largest food exporter, the country is the main producer and exporter of several products.
Such features place Brazil in a prominent position on the international scene and turn it into the focus of attention of foreign organizations with activities related to agriculture.
Negative and untrue information about the sector is constantly disseminated abroad, harming the image of Brazilian agriculture and livestock, as well as undermining the maintenance and expansion of its trade with other countries.
For this reason, it is extremely important that both the private and public sectors increase efforts to promote the image of Brazilian agribusiness in international markets.
There are already several examples of initiatives with this aim, such as seminars promoted by Brazilian embassies abroad to show and discuss aspects of national production, visiting programs for foreign delegations carried out by sectoral associations, the Programa de Acesso a Mercados do Agronegócio Brasileiro (Brazilian Agribusiness Market Access Program, or PAM AGRO), coordinated by APEX-Brasil, and AgroBrazil itself, among others.
One of the main challenges linked to this work lies in coordinating the efforts of these different actors.
With an agriculture and livestock sector as diverse as the Brazilian one, it is not an easy task to build a narrative that represents all production chains. Moreover, the country has several data sources on the same subject. The vast majority of them have excellent technical quality, but also have different development methods, which makes it difficult to unify the discourse.
In addition to actively promoting it, it is necessary to advocate the image of Brazilian agribusiness abroad. Constant monitoring of news disseminated abroad, timeliness, and quality of response are success factors for an efficient advocacy.
Strengthening the relationship with relevant actors also contributes positively to the effort of promoting this image. With so much misinformation being spread about Brazilian agriculture and livestock, it is extremely valuable to have a direct channel with relevant people and organizations abroad, with which it is possible to dialogue and clarify questions about the sector.
Given that the expectation is for Brazilian agricultural production to continue growing and the sector’s relevance in the international market should also keep increasing, Brazil will remain in the global showcase. Therefore, the country must expand its efforts to promote and advocate the agribusiness sector’s image.
Sueme Mori is Director of International Relations at the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA)