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Brazil meets at Cerrado Coffee Seminar.

The numbers coming from the Cerrado Coffee Seminar reflect the importance of this once pioneer coffee growing area of Brazil: over 2,300 participants from Brazil and five other countries, almost 90 exhibitors, and several million dollars of business transacted in the four days of the event, which took place this past May.

Cerrado coffee business is impressive: It has a cultivated area of 125,000 hectares (ha), produced about 3.5 million bags in 1996, and has an average yield of 28 bags per ha. The business plans to expand its cultivated area by 10% in 1997.

The Cerrado story is an example of how technology is used to produce high quality coffee in what was once considered land unsuitable to grow coffee. After agronomic research paved the way for production, technology was required to irrigate some areas and for mechanical harvesting in several other areas.

Today, the Cerrado includes about 180 coffee harvesters that help pick what Cerrado leader Aguinaldo Lima calls the best natural coffee in the world. Lima adds that Cerrado coffee is the basic ingredient from which to make high quality espressos.

Held in Patrocinio for the last seven years, the Cerrado Coffee Seminar has grown from a regional coffee grower's meeting to one of the main annual coffee events in Brazil - attracting participants from all regions of the country. The coffee community met to listen to presentations about agronomy, technology, markets, marketing, and to visit Cerrado farms.

The event was opened by the Governor of the State of Minas Gerais Eduardo Azeredo, assisted by his Secretary of Agriculture Allysson Paulinelli and Congressman Silas Brasileiro who chaired the Congressional Coffee Committee that proposed the creation of the Coffee Policy Council (CPDC). The first morning was devoted to coffee politics with the participation of leaders representing growers, exporters, roasters, and soluble makers. Members of the new CDPC attended the opening session and also toured the Cerrado farms.

Confirming the trend of previous years, the main thrust of the seminar moved from agronomy and technology to an integrated coverage of the coffee business in order to appeal to a more diversified public. This year's program included anthropologist Luiz A. Marins talking about market trends, reviews by professors Helena Ribeiro and Sylvia Saes of studies made by the Universities of Sao Paulo and Uberlandia about the competitiveness of Brazilian coffee, a report by the roaster unions' president Nathan Herszkowics on the ongoing program to increase coffee consumption in Brazil, and a presentation by international marketing consultant Carlos Brando on Brazil's emerging competitors in the coffee business.

Innovations in labor relations were covered in two presentations by expert Walter Tech and consultant Jean Paul Gayet. Recent agronomic findings were presented both in talks by agronomists Guilherme Cortez, Roberto Santinato, and Jaime Santos and in the traditional field day held this year on Aguinaldo Lima's farms Sao Conrado and Boa Vista.

Most presentations pointed to a bright future for the Brazilian coffee business. The country enjoys political and economic stability, which is reflected in growing incomes and the continuation of the trend towards increased coffee consumption. Technology continues to furnish growers with the tools to control costs so as to keep Brazilian coffee competitive. New coffee growing areas which are developing quickly have low production costs. Though research is yet to be completely reorganized and international marketing still deserves a strong push, Brazil seems better prepared to face the emerging low-cost competitors than other large producers.

The Cerrado Coffee Seminar offered three workshops simultaneously with the main program held in the central conference room. Sponsored by the Coffee Preparation Center - which was recently created by the union and the association of Brazilian coffee roasters - the workshop on coffee brewing gave participants insight into how different coffee types and systems of preparation affect cup quality as perceived by consumers.

The two others workshops dealt with future markets and coffee agronomy. Under the leadership of experts of Banco do Brazil, the BM&F futures exchange, and futures company Hedging-Griffo, participants learned how operations in futures markets may help growers with financial risk management and financing their businesses. The agronomy workshop was led by Ministry of Agriculture agronomists Roberto Santinato and Osvaldo Silva, and was directed to farm managers and owners directly involved with the day-to-day operation of their coffee farms. It introduced both technical and managerial information presented at a practical level, using case studies and providing useful hints.

CACCER (the Council of the Cerrado Coffee Growers' Associations) - which promotes the Cerrado Seminar - is already busily drafting plans for the 1998 version, which is expected to be larger and more diversified than this year's. CACCER's president Aguinaldo Lima points out that it is their intention to consolidate the Cerrado coffee seminar into one of the leading annual forums for discussion of the Brazilian coffee business.
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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1997
Previous Article:Brazilian exporters speak out.
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