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Increasing competition from Israel for Brazilian figs
Mauricio Brotto manages Brotto Figs, a family company founded 60 years ago and now in its third generation of fig producers. In 2000 it started exporting to Europe and it currently ships 60% of its production there, with the rest going to the domestic market. "We market about 500 to 550 tonnes of fresh figs per year, and all of that is our own production. Our small family business has about 40 hectares devoted to figs and accounts for about 25% of all Brazilian fig exports," explains the producer.
The fig market in Brazil is small, started by Italian immigrants in the early twentieth century, as explained by Brotto. "There are no big producers; only family companies like ours. It is not even a very common product here. We have some domestic sales close to the growing regions, but if we travel 500 km away, there are hardly any figs on the store shelves, since it is a highly perishable product and this is a very big country," he added.
For this same reason, all of Brotto Figs' exports to Europe are made by air. "When exporting, air shipments can have many problems, because it costs $ 1.50 per kilo to ship figs to Europe, which is quite expensive, but its the only way to keep the freshness and taste. In the domestic market, it depends. During the peak production periods, you can get good prices in Brazil, but at this time of the year they are very expensive, even compared to exports," he explains.
All year round
The only commercial fig variety grown in Brazil is known as "Roxo de Valinhos", or Brown Turkey elsewhere in the world, but the country is able to produce it all year round. The high season for Brotto Figs runs from November to late May, but it is also possible to produce figs from May to November; however, during these months, there is much competition from Turkey and Israel. "Turkey is starting now in Europe with good quality and good prices, so it is difficult to compete, especially due to our logistics costs; however, this does not matter too much, because now it is our low season," he affirms. "Our biggest competitor is Israel, which starts in May/June. Israel is increasing its production and becoming increasingly competitive, and in November/December it is still on the market, which itself is a problem, because that clashes with our harvest season."
Too much rain
Brotto acknowledges that figs are not an easy product to market because of how delicate they are. Moreover, being a family company, they do everything themselves, so the company is growing slowly. "I prefer to increase production less and maintain the same quality level. We are famous in Europe for our quality, Brotto figs are considered the best Brazilian figs on the market, all thanks to our hard work and our involvement in the whole process."
Sometimes, the weather conditions cause some decay in quality, because figs do not tolerate rainfall very well. This year, between January and March, it rained too much in growing areas.
Figs originated from dry regions of the Mediterranean, such as Turkey, where they are harvested in the dry summer. "With the exception of its rainy months, Brazil has a unique advantage of being able to produce figs all year round due to its climate which, makes it a good business activity.
Brotto feels unable to predict how the next season will go. "It depends, for example, last year we had a very good campaign in terms of production, but this year we have had too rainy months which have caused losses ranging between 15% and 20% compared to previous years..
The producer considers it something extraordinary to be part of the third generation growing figs in his family. During the 60 years that the company has been around, the market has not been without changes. "One thing is certain: I think that, over the years, the demand between June and August has been declining, because there are many figs from Israel, Turkey, Greece and Spain. However, demand from December to May remains stable or is on the rise," he concludes.
Mauricio Brotto, manager
Rod. SP 73 Km 6,5 - Sitio Bela Vista
CP 5011 CEP13035-971
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