The third edition of the AgroBrazil Exchange Program took place in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, marking the second year of the project.
From June 24 to June 28, a delegation composed by representatives of South Korea, Mexico, France, the Netherlands, and Thailand visited coffee and dairy production facilities and learned firsthand about the cultivation and processing in the municipalities of Divinópolis, São Roque de Minas and Guaxupé.
The agenda started at the Federation of Agriculture and Livestock of the State of Minas Gerais (FAEMG), where the guests learned about the agricultural production in the State. Minas Gerais is Brazil’s largest coffee and milk producer, accounting for 52.9% and 27% of the national output, respectively.
The President of FAEMG, Mr. Roberto Simões, stressed the importance of AgroBrazil to show the world the reality of Brazil’s agricultural fields. “It is fundamental to bring the representatives from other countries, to whom we often export our products so that they witness the quality and the sustainability involved in our production processes,” he said.
According to Mr. Simões, this initiative helps to answer questions that these countries’ consumers may have, clarify any misunderstanding and counteract fake information that is, sometimes, disseminated about Brazilian agriculture.
The representative of Mexico, Agricultural Counselor José Luís González Uribe, also evaluated the relevance of the exchange of information between the countries. “This program offers an opportunity for us to get essential and credible information about Brazilian agriculture. It is also crucial for Mexican producers, who are now looking for trade partners other than the United States,” said Uribe.
Then, the group visited the Grota Grande Farm, a milk-producing property that has significantly increased its productivity indexes due to the use of techniques that provide animal welfare and sustainable practices. The 80-cow dairy farm has an average milk output of 1,800 liters per day. The farm uses treatment systems that convert waste into fertilizers. These fertilizers are then applied in the corn and soybeans used in cattle feed preparations.
The second day of the visits began at Sicoob Saromcredi, a credit cooperative in the municipality of São Roque de Minas. There, the group learned about the Canastra Cheese Producers Association (Aprocan) and the Canastra Coffee Producers Association. The meeting promoted a better understanding of the way investment in traditional and handicraft products, and cooperation with other countries has brought about economic development to the Canastra Region. The investment in the Canastra Cheese brought local producers together and put the city’s economy back on track, after a cooperation with French cheese-producers and Dutch financial institutions.
Afterward, the delegation visited Roça da Cidade Farm, famous for its production of handcrafted cheese. Roça da Cidade Farm is part of the history of traditional Canastra Cheese production for four generations. João Carlos Leite, a well-known farmer in the region and also the President of Aprocan, showed the group the different stages of production before the famous cheese is ready for consumption. Moreover, Leite stressed the importance of presenting the way they produce the Canastra Cheese to the foreign audience.
“When we receive groups of representatives from other countries, we have an excellent opportunity to show our products, describe our control systems, and attest our quality. In the end, we know they’ll have high expectation about the Canastra Cheese,” said Leite. “We are preparing our products to conquer new markets, not only in Brazil but also around the world.”
The agenda of dairy technical visits was completed with a visit to the Bela Vista Farm, one of the most advanced production facilities in the country for milk type A. Fazenda Bela Vista is a role model in technology, high genetic standards, and quality. Located in the municipalities of Guaxupé and Tapiratiba (the latter in the State of São Paulo), the family has a herd of two thousand cows, which provides 65 thousand liters of milk per day. With modern facilities and a fully automated production system, the company manufactures products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and clabber varieties.
Throughout the dairy visits, participants noticed that it is possible to follow environment and sustainability standards even on small-scale farms. Also, they realize that agriculture is often the only source of income for some regions, but that investment in knowledge and technology makes a difference in building better conditions for the farmers, enabling the economic sustainability of an entire region. These visits demonstrated that Brazil has farms and production centers with integrated technology and with a sustainable agro-industrial system.
The visits related to coffee production took place in the south of Minas Gerais, in the municipality of Guaxupé, precisely at the headquarters of the largest coffee cooperative in the world, Cooxupé, and at the Japy Industrial Complex (unit belonging to the same cooperative). Cooxupé is a significant symbol of coffee cooperatives with impressive numbers: it sells approximately 4% of the world’s coffee, represents 13% of the national production of Arabica beans, exports to 46 countries and has almost 14,000 members. Along with the company’s board of directors, the group visited the cooperative structure and was able to verify processes such as grain reception, separation, coffee grain analysis, roasting, and loading.
Thailand is one of the countries where coffee consumption has increased and, according to Second Secretary Phitchanan Panadamrong “It was essential to see how coffee production in Brazil works and to learn concerning technology and sustainability. I will return to the embassy and disseminate the information I received. I am interested in promoting bilateral trade between Thailand and Brazil and see if we can increase exports of Brazilian coffee, which has great potential in my country”.
Besides Cooxupé and the Japy Industrial Complex, the foreign representatives also had the opportunity to visit Monte Alto Coffees. This farm is one of the most traditional in the southern region of Minas Gerais in the production of specialty coffees. With 250 hectares of plantations located in a mountain area with high altitudes, the property produces, and exports coffee varieties recognized for quality and sustainability. Today, the farm is managed by the 7th generation of the family, who arrived in the region in the year of 1830 and had as a member the Baron of Guaxupé. The director of Monte Alto, Rafael Ribeiro do Valle, highlighted the importance of AgroBrazil “It is the possibility to show in loco, for the representatives of other countries, that we can make a high-quality coffee respecting the environmental practices. It’s a change of course for us and a unique opportunity to present our work standards. ”
The visits to the coffee production centers allowed the representatives to see how it is possible for traditional models of production and logistics can evolve and become increasingly efficient. The visits highlighted how the integration of social and environmental sustainability practices not only fulfill compliance with environmental law, but they also result in economic and social growth of the state of Minas Gerais, the agricultural sector, and consequently Brazil’s economy.