The Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce organized jointly with the Union of Arab Chambers a virtual seminar on the implications of COVID 19, and its impact on Arab and international agricultural and food security, live on the Zoom application on Wednesday, April 8, and participated in the symposium, Ms. Teresa Christina, Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supplies. Dr. Khaled Hanafi, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Chambers. Mr. Robins Hannun, President of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
The discussion and dialogue was moderated by Mr. Tamer Mansour, Secretary General and Executive Director of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. The symposium received follow-up to more than 800 people from the Arab countries and Brazil.
In this context, Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina spoke, confirming that the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture is working to provide supplies, pointing out that the Arab countries are one of the ministry's priorities when it comes to foreign markets amid the Covid pandemic 19.
The Brazilian minister stressed that "Brazil and the Arab countries must join hands to find a solution to reduce transportation costs, especially through maritime shipping," explaining that "the coronavirus will eventually fade, and we need more understanding about opening up to other products. We need to work on "Further diversification of the product. And as far as Brazil is concerned, we are doing our best to keep our market open, efficient and reliable."
Minister Cristina pointed out that as a result of her tour to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates last year, it was agreed to export many products from Brazil to those four countries, as well as the Kingdom of Morocco.
She added: "I made a very successful visit, and surely we can do more."
She explained that the epidemic prompted her to postpone a trip to Saudi Arabia, which was scheduled to take place before the end of this year "but at the present time we can devise a more active strategic plan for the Brazilian-Arab trade, which we would like to promote more and more, and I am putting myself in disposal so that we can exchange Information and going out with the other side, the Arab side, with new ideas and solutions for our relationship, whether as business partners or as friends."
Minister Tereza Cristina explained that the ministry's inspection and control activities are continuing as usual to ensure that food safety standards, whether for humans or for animals, are met.
"We are working with international partners to make sure that we live up to our role as a supplier of quality food to the world," she said.
She explained that a number of Brazilian products have obtained the green light for export to Arab countries in the past few months, calling for continuing to work with Brazil to simplify the issuance of certificates, and added: "Once the Corona crisis ends, we will be able to make a greater contribution to our partners in the Arab world."
Dr. Khaled Hanafy: Strategic Alliances
The Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Chambers, Dr. Khaled Hanafy, spoke at the symposium, noting at the beginning of his speech the role played by the Arab-Brazilian Chamber in terms of keeping pace with the situation with regard to supply chains for food and food security, as well as in terms of developing the reality of business and trade between Brazil and the Arab countries.
Dr. Hanafy pointed at the importance of the symposium, and stressed that the new Corona virus created new challenges related to food security and business, as well as in relation to the reality of investment in various countries.
He stressed that the trade relations between Brazil and the Arab countries have started to grow prominently in the past few years, especially in the agricultural and food domains, but despite this we cannot say that it has reached what we aspire to, because the volume of trade exchange is still at a level lower than we want it to be at, compared to the size of Brazil's GDP and the GDP of the Arab world, so to develop that we need to do two basic things, the first and it has to do with maintaining our trade relations to avoid the deterioration of the Arab-Brazilian trade volume, which is currently about $15 billion, where we need to avoid any deterioration in this size in the future for the benefit of both sides, whether for the Arab side because we are able to access products that come from Brazil, or for Brazilian producers who need Arab markets.
He continued: As for the second issue, there is no doubt that we need to change the current business style. We need to move the relationship from a simple commercial relationship based on import and export, to bring it to a strategic alliance relationship.
Hanafy pointed out that before the appearance of the Corona virus, he had meetings earlier in São Paulo and Brasilia, where he stressed in front of the economic figures and the officials he met, that we need to think about a different kind of relationship, and with the emergence of the Corona virus, we must transform to build a strategic relationship that depends more on having some type of value-added activities.
Cooperation in the field of food industries
Hanafy explained that we need to have types of activities with added value in the field of food industries and even in industrial businesses, as well as in terms of trade in foodstuffs, which are very important for both sides.
He pointed out that the Arab side imports traditional products from Brazil, such as poultry, meat, grains, etc. But today we have to think about new activities, and therefore we need to think about a different pattern on the subject of the supply chain between Brazil and the Arab countries, where we need to have the supply chain equipped with an advanced transportation system, in addition to the presence of strategic ports on both sides.
He stressed that "investment in the agricultural sector is vital for the Arab countries, and therefore the Brazilian investment in the agricultural sector must be an added value for the Arab countries, so that we can later target a third market, especially since the Arab and Brazilian sides need to access other markets, whether In Africa or other different markets around the world, this needs to make a qualitative shift based on knowledge and technology in the agricultural aspect and in the production of food. "
Hanafy added that "Arab countries have their investment capabilities, regardless of that we are facing some problems in terms of low oil prices, but we still have the ability to invest in the food sector not only to serve Arab countries but to serve Africa as a whole. So, when we talk about this matter, we need the Brazilian side's experience in this type of activity. "
Support for small producers
He said: We have to do a kind of networking, whether between the small producers in Brazil and the merchants in the Arab countries, which enables us to avoid relying on intermediaries who often achieve a great benefit from this reality. That is why we need a true partnership via maritime connectivity, where in many cases the cost of transportation is an obstacle to doing business.
Dr. Hanafy added: From this standpoint, we should work to establish storage areas, as well as the construction of silos and domes, in addition to the establishment of major ports in Brazil and Arab countries, which leads to a huge commodity link between Arab countries and Brazil.
Hanafy stressed that we must employ research not only in production, but also in logistical services, and in the supply chain, because research brings benefit to both the producer and the consumer.
Hanafy discussed in his speech, the reality of small and medium-sized enterprises that will be affected more than others by the consequences of Corona, calling on the governments to support them and provide the elements of resilience to them.
He pointed out that as a result of the cooperation between the Union of Arab Chambers and the Arab Brazilian Chamber, we succeeded in putting the article of maritime linking between Brazil and the Arab countries on the agenda of the Arab leaders’ summit, and the mission was entrusted to the League of Arab States to follow up the file. We were supposed to meet during the current April in Brazil to follow up on the discussion of this issue, but due to the current situation the meeting has been postponed to a later time, it will be decided soon in cooperation with our partners in Brazil, especially the Arab-Brazilian Chamber headed by our friend Rubens Hannun and the Secretary General of the Chamber, Mr. Tamer Mansoor.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Hanafy revealed that the Union of Arab chambers in cooperation in cooperation with the Brazilian Arab Chamber are organizing an important conference in the city of Sao Paulo during the month of November. The conference will discuss ways to benefit from the fourth industrial revolution in improving the business environment between the Arab and Brazilian sides.
At the end of his speech, Hanafy thanked the Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina and the Arab-Brazilian Chamber, noting that the Union of Arab Chambers as a representative of the private sector in the Arab countries will work to draw a vision that will serve as a road map to enhance the relationship and strategic partnership between the Arab countries and Brazil, provided that It will be presented during the meeting scheduled for next November.
From an international point of view, Minister Tereza Cristina said she is holding videoconferences with agriculture ministers from all over South America, to discuss the regulatory adjustments and to ensure that goods and food continue to flow smoothly via land across the region during the epidemic. She said, "Although road borders are closed to foreign travelers, there are no restrictions on agricultural goods."
Food safety measures
Minister Cristina said that at such times, international cooperation becomes more important, stressing that it is time to show solidarity and act responsibly towards our common goal of increasing safety, immunity, nutrition and the general welfare of people around the world. She stressed that Brazil adheres to strict food safety rules.
She added: We had a lot of work to do in the beginning of the spread of the epidemic, as there is a concerted effort between the private and public sectors, to involve workers in basic industries - this includes food supplies - to continue to work within the normal situation and as safely as possible.
According to the minister, this safety necessitates proper mass transportation and the utmost care in the manufacture of canned meat, by providing individual protection equipment for workers, in addition to dressing rooms and disinfected cafeterias. And she added: "We need to work together so that we can safely bypass this, so that our workers can continue to work."
The Minister also touched on the logistical side of agriculture and livestock. She said that the Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Ministry of Infrastructure to ensure that truckers get the support they need to work safely, and ensure the distribution of products. "There is no point in keeping the industry going if we cannot deliver products to supermarket shelves, or to seaports so that they can reach the countries we export to," she said.
Helping small farmers
The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture added that there are great concerns regarding products and flower supplies, which are the most affected sector at the present time, because production continues, but demand is weak, as bars, restaurants and hotels are closed.
According to Cristina, "500 million Brazilian riyals will be provided to these producers, to enable them to sell their products, and for federal, state and local governments to work on distribution so that the product is not banned. We need to continue these production chains so that we do not later see a shortage of central product markets, which are still operating as normal as possible."
The minister also considered that the money will reach farmers of food products, flowers and dairy, as well as smaller family-run cooperatives through "Konab", i.e. the national supply company.
"Science and scientific research is our greatest ally," said Minister Cristina, adding that she had entrusted the Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) laboratories to analyze corona tests. She added that Embrapa has laboratories in 27 different cities, with 108 employees specialized in this field. She explained that by deploying this entire network, we expect to receive more than 76,000 tests that are analyzed daily, and this could double the national capacity.
Cristina said that the Ministry of Agriculture and other government agencies have joined together with producers of sugar and ethanol to manufacture sterilization materials and disinfectants.
In his intervention, President of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber, Rubins Hannun, focused on the importance of exchanging experiences and enhancing Arab-Brazilian strategic partnerships. He stressed that although the Chamber's offices are closed, we nevertheless work more than ever from the house, where our employees do a distinguished job, with the aim of maintaining the flow of goods without obstacles and without any delay. We have seen significant improvement in this framework, as we take an important step forward, and to this end we are in the process of issuing and certifying them online in many countries, which contributes to lower costs and reduces transaction completion times from seven days to one day, and this is something that is very important".
He said, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, we are setting more stringent food safety controls. These measures lead to a tighter partnership, and this means that our Arab partners can be reassured.
Mr. Hannun called on the followers to an online seminar organized by the Chamber soon on international logistics, at 9 am on Wednesday 15 April 2020, with more details to be announced later on the website of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
Also, there were interventions by Tamer Mansour, Secretary-General of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center for Food, Marwan Al-Jarem, Chairman of Kwamu for Cooperative Agricultural Industries, Arton Gallenari, and Director of the Department of International Agreements at the Ministry of Trade and Industry Michael Jamal.
At the end of the symposium, Minister Tereza Cristina said: “You never feel frustrated by the obstacles. No matter how hard the adversity is, with every hurdle, there is a step to a better place, so it makes no sense to back down in our dictionary unless we give in to it.”