Abrafrutas, the Brazilian association of 65 fresh fruit producers and exporters who combined represent 82% of national exports, is looking to realise a number of opportunities on the UK market for its year-round supply of avocados, papayas, mangos and limes. PBUK talks with Jorge de Souza, Project & Technical Manager at Abrafrutas, ahead of Brazil’s first country participation at The London Produce Show and Conference in June.
“The UK already enjoys the quality produce that Brazil has to offer but so much more can be done to strengthen our position by offering our delicious tropical fruits year-round to British consumers,” de Souza begins by saying.
“We are confident that there are excellent opportunities for our avocados (both Hass and tropical varieties). Also, papaya really is a top product considering that distributors are improving and consolidating the technical post-harvest management in order to protect fruit quality. Finally, limes and mangos have good opportunities to increase consumption too."
To that end, Abrafrutas is exhibiting at The London Produce Show 2019 on 5-7 June under its marketing strapline ‘Frutas do Brasil’ (Fruits from Brazil). A number of companies from Brazil’s lime, mango, table grape and avocado sectors will be present on the stand to showcase their offerings. So far, the delegation includes: Be Fruit, COOPA, the Brazilian Avocado Growers Association (ABPA) and San Sebastian, and it will be headed by de Souza.
Be Fruit is a trading company based in São Paulo that specialises in top quality limes, COOPA is a cooperative located in Petrolina that exports new varieties of mangos and table grapes; and ABPA is the Brazilian Avocado Growers’ Association, based in São Paulo, which will showcase new varieties of tropical avocados at the show. San Sebastian, meanwhile, is a company in Petrolina – the primary mango and grape production region in Brazil – that de Souza claims can offer retailers “solid commercial conditions, as well as outstanding quality fruit.”
In particular, Abrafrutas is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with UK and international buyers in person in order to build trust, and to identify new opportunities for growth.
“We look forward to engaging with players from across the fresh fruit chain to gain insights into new customer trends and to reinforce our position as reliable supplier of high-quality produce,” he says.
“I am sure The London Produce Show will be another important step in climbing to the top of the mountain to become one of the most important tropical fruit suppliers to the UK.”
Abrafrutas is also sponsoring one of the show’s Chef Demonstrations, counting on the support of talented Brazilian chef, Luciana Berry. Berry, a semifinalist on MasterChef Professionals 2014 in the UK, will be showcasing some new recipes based on what de Souza describes as the “extraordinary diversity” of Brazilian fruit.
This, he says, forms part of the commitment made by Abrafrutas to invest in demonstrating to consumers how to make the best use of Brazilian fruits as an ingredient in many recipes. “They are healthy, tasty and provide an exciting gastronomic experience,” he says.
“It is not so simple to convince people to eat papaya for breakfast, or to eat avocado as a sweet cream instead of as guacamole, for instance. But the same happened with mangoes a few years back, and now mangos are more popular in the UK than in other European markets!”
With UK consumers now eating more tropical fruits than in the past, de Souza believes the time is ripe to actively push the diverse flavours and uses of Brazilian fruits.
“We see that the new generation [of British consumers] is becoming much more open-minded,” he points out. “Consumers are seeking innovation, and they are adopting new dietary habits that provide them with wellness and new experiences continuously.
“Brazilian fruits provide them with both these things, and Brazil’s Banana Prata is a great example of this. It’s a new banana variety which is great news for consumers, and it’s incomparable in terms of taste, appearance and nutrition [it has a lower sodium content].
“British consumers have a strong reputation for wanting the best, including top quality, products in their daily diet. We are very fond of the UK and British consumers! They are the trend-setters that provide the appeal for our products in other markets.”
Besides growing a wide range of fruits and varieties, de Souza claims Brazil’s most important competitive advantage for UK buyers is its ability to supply all year-round.
“From the moment customers start consuming papayas daily, it is important to ensure that that fruit is available every day,” he exclaims. “That is critical to moving from the initial trial stage to creating a food habit.
“Brazil is a reliable partner that is focused on providing top-quality, sustainably produced fruits, all year-round. We share a strong commitment to food safety and continuously seek to demonstrate our trustworthiness and innovative solutions with retailers and customers alike through long-term partnerships.”
Brazil also benefits from “exceptionally sustainable production methods”, which de Souza says positively contribute to the protection of Brazil’s environment.
“Most fruits are produced in the northeast of Brazil, which is a semi-arid region far removed from tropical forests such as the Amazon,” he explains.
And by choosing Brazilian fruit, UK consumers not only benefit from top-quality produce, but also they make a positive impact on communities across Brazil.
“Our fruit production has been demonstrated to positively contribute to the social and economic well-being of entire production regions,” de Souza claims.
“We have compared regional Human Development Indexes before and after fruit production with astonishing results for entire communities. Fruit production has brought substantial economic improvements and also contributed to the technological development of the country.”
Despite being recognised as the world’s third-largest fruit producer, Brazil still lags behind in terms of exports; ranking 23rd on the global scale, according to Abrafrutas.
In 2014, the organisation was established precisely to tackle that imbalance, seeking to increase the overseas market share of its producers and working towards the goal of reaching US$1 billion (£769m) in fruit exports.
“We have successfully increased exports even though the goal of US$1 billion is yet to be achieved,” accepts de Souza. “In 2018, we closed the gap towards this objective with around US$900,000 in sales.
“Throughout the 2014-2018 period, we had an average 8% increase in both volume and value. However, this period brought forward new uncertainties, as the macroeconomic outlook changed for business, which impacted on international trading.
“We remain confident that we will soon achieve the US$1 billion benchmark we set for ourselves.”
In the context of the UK, exports are on the up. In 2018, Abrafrutas calculates that Brazil exported around 160,000 tonnes of fresh fruit to UK, including direct consignments by sea and air, as well as via Dutch distributors in Rotterdam.
For 2019, Abrafrutas plans to raise exports by 10%. So far, the first few months of the year have shown good results, with sales from January to March registering 9% higher in value and 15% higher in volume, against the same period in 2018.
Even with Brexit looming, Abrafrutas remains committed to increasing its supply to the UK. “Until the full details emerge as to the UK’s exit from the European Union, it is difficult to judge impact on the fruit supply chain,” de Souza points out.
“In the event of potential disruption, we shall do our very best to continue to supply the UK efficiently with our top quality tropical fruits! The London Produce Show also lends the opportunity to discuss the potential challenges and opportunities that could arise.”
Abrafrutas is headed by Luiz Roberto Barcelos, who is in his third term as president; and Guilherme Coelho, who was elected vice-president last year.
Visit Abrafrutas at The London Produce Show and Conference 2019 on 5-7 June to find out more about the association and its members.
Register here to attend the three-day event.