Fourteen Brazilian rural entrepreneurs embarked on a mission to the Middle East last week. The group, supported by the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), went to Dubai on a series of activities from February 20 to 24, including the participation in Gulfood, the region’s largest food and beverage fair.
The mission is part of the Agro.BR project, a partnership between CNA and Apex Brasil, which facilitates international business to increase the presence of small and medium-sized rural producers in foreign trade and diversify Brazil’s export portfolio.
The participants were companies representing the açaí, coffee, breakfast cereal, fruit, cocoa nibs, vegetable drinks, cassava gum (tapioca), ready-made teas, chocolate drinks, juices, wines, tomato sauce, and pulp sectors. All of them are interested in exporting to Middle Eastern countries.
Rita Padilla, CNA’s International Relations advisor, this was a unique opportunity for the farmers. “They have participated in a true immersion, not only in one of the largest food and beverage fairs in the world but also in the technical visits, to get to know and understand the best strategy to be inserted in that market,” she says.
The schedule in Dubai included participation at Gulfood with product exhibitions, in addition to commercial meetings with potential partners or clients, seminars, and visits to companies and local hypermarkets.
Gulfood is considered the main annual event of the food and beverage sector in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world. In this edition, according to the organizers, there were more than 5,000 exhibitors from 120 countries, the largest participation of exhibitors and visitors ever recorded.
Of the 14 companies served by Agro.BR, seven are exhibitors at Gulfood. The entrepreneurs highlight the importance of participation. “This is a market that we are very interested in attending. We have participated in this fair since 2019. In 2020 we got our first client and this year we are strengthening partnerships, meeting clients, and opening new businesses,” said Suany Gomes, from Xingu Fruit, an organic açaí pulp company.
Brazilian farmers in the Middle East
In addition to participating in Gulfood, the group of entrepreneurs also made technical visits to learn more about the local market. One of these visits was to the VeggiTech vertical farm, a technology startup with over 20 years of experience in creating sustainable farms. Aiming to overcome the challenges of food production in the Arab Emirates, the company specializes in extreme climatic conditions, with temperature, humidity, and lighting-controlled farms.
Another strategic visit took place at the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF Zone), a tax-free zone located in the city of Sharjah, an emirate near Dubai. “They learned how to open a business to serve SAIF, which operates in all seven countries of the UAE. They saw production licenses, visa facilities, and so on. There are more than 8,000 registered companies, from 165 different countries,” said Rita.
At the beginning of the week, the entrepreneurs participated in a meeting with potential buyers, journalists, and strategic guests to exchange experiences and business expectations. The Agro.BR delegation met two supermarket chains with different niches – Organic Foods & Café and the Carrefour chain.
The family-owned supermarket chain, Organic Foods & Café, has seven stores in Dubai. “The producers were able to compare the prices charged in the market, the packaging issue, and how the products are presented on the shelves, in addition to seeing up close what is trending there. There is a growth in the Emirates in the search for products with organic certification, a great opportunity for Brazilian companies,” says Rita.
Brazil is currently the second largest food supplier to the Middle East, behind India. The main export destinations are Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2022, Brazil’s bilateral trade with the UAE alone was approximately US$ 2.8 billion in agricultural products, with meat, sugar, coffee, dairy products, fruits, and nuts standing out – responsible for 47% of total exports.