Interview: Brazil's agribusiness eager to boost exports to China, says minister

Updated: June 28, 2020 Source:
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Brazil hopes to increase its agricultural exports to China, Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias has said.

"One of the goals that we have in the ministry is to increase the basket of products that we offer to the world, including China, which is a great market. Recently, we opened the melon market to China, and the next one will be the grape market, we are working towards that. We also have chestnut, wine and sparkling wine, which are of high quality," the minister said.

Brazil "is very interested in selling ethanol to the Chinese market," and in the protein sector, "enabling more slaughterhouses" to export meat to China, she added.

"I think we have great opportunities in the Chinese market and will work harder to offer more quality products to the Chinese market -- quality and quantity" to meet China's demand, she added.

The agribusiness sector "has been organizing for many years, using a totally Brazilian, tropical technology that the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company has developed in the past 40 years," said the senior official, mentioning that "we set a production record" last year.

While the sector in 2020 has had to grapple with the unexpected impact of the pandemic, the year's "harvest had already been planted with a lot of technology, a lot of motivation in the fields," she said.

Due to the nature of agriculture, the sector has been "little affected by COVID-19," she said, adding that "contingency plans" have helped gather and transport major harvests to urban centers and ports.

"Perishable products suffered, owners of small orchards, farms, flower and fish (enterprises) ... We had more problems in those sectors than in the agriculture of soybeans, corn, rice, beans or milk," she said.

"Brazilian soybean," the country's leading agricultural export, "is practically in its entirety exported to China today: 88 percent of exported soybean is shipped to the Chinese market," she added.

"We have Chinese companies here in Brazil buying soybeans and shipping them to China. I see that the market is active and if Chinese demand continues, Brazil will continue to send soybeans to China and other partners, but China is Brazil's great partner," said the minister.

Recent data on Brazil's meat exports to China showed that efforts to promote the sector have paid off, she said.

"The Ministry of Agriculture has worked hard since I took office to open new licenses for the Chinese market, for poultry, beef and pork. This shows that our work was good and that things are happening between the two countries," said the minister.

This was the one area of agriculture where the ministry ensured special measures were put in place due to COVID-19 and its potential impact "mainly on slaughterhouses" and meatpacking plants, she said.

"We sought to increase the safety of employees if they went to work. We did many things in conjunction with the private sector, we discussed safety protocols for these officials, protocols written by medical centers, and these steps were taken to increase the safety of those working" at the plants, she said, adding that Brazil has at all times worked "to provide assurance to our buyers" about the quality of exports.

"China has been enormously careful about the arrival of products. The other day we watched the opening of Brazilian meat crates to see if there was any contamination ... We are learning through what others are doing and through our own domestic experience," she said.

"I think this pandemic is a learning experience for everyone, and we want to be a reliable partner, both in the production and delivery of our products," she continued.

The minister said she has traveled to China several times and hopes to visit once again when the pandemic is over.

"I have been in China four or five times. I was always surprised by the speed with which China has developed in recent years," she said. 

Editor: 于慧宸