SAO PAULO, April 6 (Reuters) – Brazilian tropical fruit producers including mangoes and papayas have been hit by falling European demand amid coronaviruses and feel burnt after overly relying on EU sales, the lobbying group Abrafrutas told Reuters on Monday.
Europe is the second major hot spot for the COVID-19 epidemic that began in China and orders from the continent began to fall as a result of locking to hold the virus, Jorge de Souza, manager for international projects and promotions at Abrafrutas, said in an interview.
While most domestic fruit production can be transferred to the Brazilian market, this problem will affect the association’s goal to export more than $ 1 billion in 2020, up from around $ 860 million last year, Souza said.
The European Union buys 60% of Brazil while the United States gets 18%, he said.
“Europe is our thermometer,” Souza said by telephone. “There was a decrease in orders due to smaller demand.”
Consumers show a preference for fruits with longer shelf life, hurting export demand for products such as papaya, one of Brazil’s top 10 exports.
Brazil relies on ships for 90% of its fruit and aircraft exports for 10%, Souza said.
Eduardo Sampaio Marques, secretary of agricultural policy at the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, said there was a decline in exports for products such as soft fruits that depend on air transportation.
But Marques noted that the government did not plan steps to alleviate the situation because exports of agricultural air transport are a small segment of the market, instead focusing on efforts to help producers of fresh products domestically.
Souza said sea transportation was actually normal except that it was necessary to order refrigerated containers “well in advance” to overcome shortcomings since disruptions hit Chinese ports earlier this year.
Brazil is the 24th largest exporter of fruit in the world but is the third largest producer after China and India, ahead of the United States, Souza said.
“We have to be in the top 10,” Souza said, adding that Abrafrutas wanted to make Brazil a more aggressive exporter. Recently, Brazil was allowed to sell melons to China, but the coronavius crisis delayed initial sales, he said.
Regarding Europe, a shortage of rural labor on the continent could reduce the internal supply of fresh produce, with Europe likely to switch to Brazil again.
“We have fruit to sell. We produce all year long. “(Reporting by Ana Mano in São Paulo and additional reporting by Jake Spring in Brasília; Editing by David Gregorio)