Over the last 20 years, Brazil has presented a significant rise in the international market, becoming a major exporter of agricultural products. However, this position is threatened by some aspects that will need special attention in the coming years.
First of all, it is important to mention that, in February 2020, Brazil lost some privileges in international trades because it had left the list of developing countries of the US. This measure has not affected Brazil directly because there is no current dispute within the WTO (World Trade Organization) referring to previous benefits that Brazil had. However, this change may bring conflicts to future trades involving Brazilian exports.
The world turns its attention to Brazil every time there are environment questions. The country has been facing several trade retaliations due the environmental irresponsibility wide-spread by the media, a scenario that has worsened this year. Brazil is currently suffering from international capital outflow (European investment funds, for instance), which is explained partly by the absence of an environmental management that aims to solve problems that Brazil faces to preserve its biomes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to protect the environment in general.
It is clear that it is not possible to keep business as usual. In the coming years, the environmental policy must be a priority, which has not been currently observed. If this subject does not have the attention it deserves, the actions of a minority – which still uses deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, exploitation and soil degradation as part of production – may still be in the spotlight. If sustainable practices that are already adopted are not highlighted in discussions about national environmental policies, we will face severe consequences. An example of this situation is that the Mercosur-European Union Agreement is at risk, with a debate in the European Commission that raises several questions about Brazilian environmental policies and the compliance with environmental laws in Brazil.
The health of herds and the quality of Brazilian products affect directly agribusiness exports. Both public and private sectors have combined efforts over the last years to meet international standards. The status of foot-and-mouth disease free country without vaccination, for instance, is closer to be achieved due to the Strategic Plan of the National Program for the Eradication and Prevention of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (2017-2026). The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Mapa) has also been attempting to improve and update other animal and plant health programs through the National Plan for Control of Residues and Contaminants and Federal Agricultural Defense Laboratories.
At the same time, the private sector has been investing in infrastructure and processes to improve quality control and product inspection – specially due to the possibility of establishing inspection programs for animal and plant products, fertilizers, veterinary medicines, animal feeding, seeds and inputs, which is in discussion at Mapa.
In spite of significant efforts of both public and private sectors to build a “Brazil brand”, it is still a long way to consolidate it. While we do not have a production that meets international requirements for both environment and health, our products will not have the aggregated value that Brazilian exporters want and they will not gain access to more demanding markets, which consequently pay more for certificated products.
The potential expansion of Brazilian agribusiness exports will take place if the sector’s growth is related to health, safety and sustainability. These are the three main pillars to build a solid and internationally recognized “Brazil brand”.