In 2021, not counting individual micro-entrepreneurs, Brazil ended the year with just over 8 million active companies. Of those, only 31 thousand are exporters. One of the reasons to explain this number is the lack of export mindset in the country.
The phrase export mindset is related to the degree of openness, tradition, and closeness to the foreign market.
With only 0.4% of companies operating in the international market, Brazil has an evident potential to expand its participation in foreign trade.
It is a fact that this number has been growing over the years. In 2000, there were almost 18 thousand and, in 2010, just over 21 thousand.
Increasing this number even further involves not only the productive private sector but also the strengthening and increasingly better coordination between public and private institutions that support companies in their internationalization process.
Exporting is still a frightening reality and so it is little considered by the vast majority of companies in the country. This is even more evident in the case of small and medium-sized companies.
The fact that Brazil has a large domestic market contributes to this scenario. There are more than 213 million potential consumers. For this reason, facilitating access and increasing knowledgeability of companies towards foreign markets is essential to increase the 0.4%.
One of the ways to promote this approach is through visits to other markets. Knowing first-hand the country to which it is intended to export increases knowledge and thus reduces uncertainties.
An example of this kind of initiative was the mission promoted by the CNA at the beginning of February, which took businessmen from the Brazilian food sector to Dubai. In the language of foreign trade, this trip would be classified as a prospective mission, aiming to learn about the business environment, opportunities, and particularities of a given market.
During the mission, businessmen from sectors such as fruit, coffee, and rice, among others, had an intense agenda that included visits to retail chains, the Dubai free zone, the port, the largest food fair in the Middle East (Gulfood), and Expo Dubai.
Regardless of the company’s exporting experience, taking part in this type of action is very positive to expand knowledge about the market, to establish contacts with important players, and, of course, to do business itself.
Most of the participants in the mission promoted by the CNA were small and medium rural entrepreneurs. Several said that, on their own, they would not be able to establish contacts or be received by the institutions visited. The support of an organization like CNA makes a difference.
Talking with representatives of Brazilian companies that already operate in the market and with institutions that support internationalization is another gain.
Entrepreneurs were also able to see how the country promotes its image abroad. When walking through Gulfood, it is possible to understand how the Brazilian food sector has a prominent position.
As the third-largest food exporter in the world, Brazil is already recognized in the international market as an agricultural exporting power. Last year, the country exported almost US$ 121 billion in agricultural products. That represented 43% of the total sold by Brazil abroad.
For companies in the agricultural sector that still do not export or sell little abroad, the fact that they are Brazilian is already a positive business card. Especially when it comes to the Middle East, where countries are heavily dependent on food imports to ensure domestic supplies.
Experiencing locally how this market operates and knowing entry options shorten distances, reduce fear and increase closeness to external markets. In this way, the decision to export or not to a particular country and the design of the internationalization strategy becomes more assertive.
Local intelligence is very important and adds to the knowledge that can be acquired through training, market studies, and experience exchanges.
Brazil already has a range of organizations that work to increase the base of Brazilian companies that export, offering training, customized service, support in the area of trade promotion, and the possibility of participating in missions such as the one organized by the CNA. It is necessary to improve coordination and there is room to expand the range of services offered.
If the number of 31 thousand exporting companies is low, when we look only at the agricultural sector, this number drops to 7 thousand, 23% of the total. This is very little for a country that has a diversified, resilient, and high-productivity agricultural production like Brazil.
Sueme Mori is the director of International Relations at the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA)