Brazil is the fifth largest country in size, with a population of 199 million, and is the world’s sixth-largest economy with a GDP of around US$2.2 trillion. It is a member of the G20, the G7 and the BRICS countries.
Over the past decade the South American nation has also become one of the most promising markets for organic and sustainable products, with exports rising from USD 9.5 million in 2005 to USD 130 million in 2013 and a projection of USD 150 million between 2014 and 2016, according to Ming Liu manager of Organics Brasil.
Created in 2005 as a joint initiative of the IPD – Parana Development Institute and APEX- the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency, Organics Brasil’s mission is to promote Brazilian organic products from its six natural biomes at the main international trade shows and to increase awareness of Brazil as a sustainable country.
Each biome encompasses its own fauna, flora, soil and cultural expressions, making agricultural production a unique feature in the Amazon (Tropical Rainforest); Caatinga (Tropical Scrub Forest); Cerrado (Tropical Grassland and Savannah); Mata Atlantica (Tropical Deciduous Forest); Pantanal (Temperate Flooded Grassland) and Pampas (Grassland).
“Brazilian legislation for the organic sector only took place in 2011. We have an organic seal since then”, said Ming Liu at a presentation at the first Organic Municipal Market in Curitiba during National Organic Week early in June.
“Observing what has happened in other countries, as soon as there is legislation, investment and development of infrastructure follows and the market develops. If the domestic market is not reinforced, exports alone are not enough”.
Rogerio Pereira Dias, coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply and responsible for the regulation and application of control mechanisms for the organic production agreed: “To gain trust consumers need assurance from the government. There must be mechanisms that guarantee it is ok for them to invest in products that are more expensive than the conventional brands”.
Even though the legislation was approved in 2003, the technical norms were officially in place until 2011. The Brazilian organic sector was first concentrated in the south, but now production and consumption has spread to all 26 states and the federal district, which is healthy for the market. Pereira Dias said when President Lula came to power in 2003, his government showed strong commitment to fight poverty and inequality. This was only possible with an integrated policy that included social, economic and environmental aspects across all government organizations and encouraging active and organized community participation. Current president Ms. Dilma Rousseff has continued the work started by Mr. Lula.
Thanks to a National Development Plan for the Organic Sector and Agroecology in Brazil including legislation and consumer campaigns, the organic sector, family farming and the better management of water, forestry and other natural resources began to see positive results.
“In the food sector we have advanced organic legislation and great farming methods that work; now is the time to find proper rules and policy for what will be defined as ‘natural’ and ‘organic cosmetics’” Pereira Dias advised. After the US and Japan, Brazil is the third principal country for cosmetics and beauty products. Another critical area is packaging, a challenge all manufacturers of food, cosmetics and other consumer goods in all countries are facing in becoming truly sustainable.
There are 125 initiatives within the national policy focused on research, technical assistance and marketing. It is estimated that the biodiversity in Brazil represents 20% of all living species on the planet.
Interesting to note that Brazil is also a top world exporter of conventional beef, orange juice, sugar, chicken and soybeans, the result of intensive farming and the use of synthetic agrochemicals. In 2007, 64% of the Brazilian soybean production was genetically modified, 91% in 2013. The country also farms large extensions of GMO corn and cotton.
“There are clear contradictions our government needs to manage”, said Onaur Ruano, director of DGRAV – Department of Income Generation and Added Value at the Ministry of Agrarian Development. On the one hand there is a policy and budget to encourage production systems for organic farming; on the other hand there is also a program to support large trans-nationals, which use GMOs. Since the government cannot support just one direction, an alternative will be to create areas free of GMOs.” Speaking with farmer Valmir Anderle, located two hours by car from Foz do Iguacu, OWN observed that, for now, there is an apparent “co-existence” between the large intensive farms and the small family owned farms that have opted for cleaner agricultural methods.
“ I farm in my 2.5 hectares only under organic practices. My rich soil offers great crops that I sell to an equivalent of 90 Brazilian minimum salaries.” Mr. Anderle has a neat and beautiful piece of land where bountiful banana and papaya trees grow side by side with orange trees and rows of diverse herbs that attract hundreds of bees and other beneficial insects. Most of the field is covered with healthy grape vines.
During the off-season for grapes he raises legumes and vegetables. “ I take care of 20 to 30 thousand plants per year and get around 6 to 7 thousand Kg of grapes, 2,000 kg of bananas, 900 kg of manioc (cassava) and other produce such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and corn. The produce is sold to customers that come and pick their own, at local markets, fairs and to restaurants, that also buy the grape juice he and his wife prepare in glass bottles of 1 and 1.5 litres.
His wife manages a home-based eatery and prepares marmalade and other preserves also sold at the local farmers’ market. “Our operation generates little waste. Any leftovers from the kitchen go back to the compost”, said Mr. Anderle, who is one of 30 farmers of a local association created after the program “Cultivating Good Water”, provided by the ITAIPU Binational Social Environmental Program. “The training provided by ITAIPU has been excellent, ” said Mr. Anderle. “Some neighbors used to spray toxic substances; one neighbor used to make fun of me by looking at the apparently messy way I plant and grow my food.
Today everyone wants to come and ask how can I produce so much and so good produce with no need of synthetic agro-chemicals. TV and radio programs have visited and I have been invited as a speaker to the schools”.