Agreement with the United Arab Emirates to expand Embrapa's international operations

Posted by Marina
Embrapa's president, Celso Moretti, defined a cooperation agreement with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) for joint action in different areas. ICBA is an international agricultural research center located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and aimed at improving productivity and sustainability in marginal and saline areas with a strong presence throughout the Middle East region and also in Africa.

For Embrapa, the agreement, to be signed in the coming weeks, means the opportunity to obtain financing, sell technology and services, carry out technical cooperation and support Brazilian companies abroad, including in Africa. There is also the prospect of installing an office in the United Arab Emirates, in partnership with Apex-Brasil and with the support of the local government. Apex-Brasil works to promote Brazilian products and services abroad and to attract foreign investments to strategic sectors of the Brazilian economy.

The details were defined during the presence of a Brazilian delegation in the United Arab Emirates between the 18th and the 21st. The mission is related to the strategy of strengthening Embrapa's performance in Africa. The actions have been monitored by Minister Tereza Cristina, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, and are part of a broad agenda that has been developed with the Ministry of Food Security of the United Arab Emirates, in the person of Minister Mariam Al Meheiri, who met twice with the Brazilian delegation during the four days of the mission.

Approach started in 2018

The visit and the agreements follow steps that began in 2018, when Celso Moretti was in the United Arab Emirates to participate in an event focused on agriculture and, on another occasion, to a meeting of the Global Economic Forum. On both occasions Minister Meheiri was invited to visit Embrapa. In January 2019, taking advantage of the presence in Brazil for the inauguration of President Jair Bolsonaro, Mariam Al Meheiri, he was at the Headquarters and at Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology with a delegation that included diplomats.

On the occasion of her visit to Embrapa, the Minister reaffirmed her intention of attracting investments to the agricultural sector of that country, responsible for only 0.7% of the GDP of a country whose economy is based on oil. His goal, he said, was to spark young people's interest in agriculture.

Al Mehairi expressed interest in knowing about the participation of the private sector in Embrapa's budget and revealed that food security is one of the current priorities for the United Arab Emirates, since more than 90% of the species used in food come from other countries.

Joint work has started

The exchange of researchers for technical cooperation was one of the topics addressed. A specially designated group from Embrapa will continue the negotiations. In practice, collaboration between researchers has already started. From the initial conversations, researchers from Embrapa Semiárido are discussing topics such as the use of biosaline water in agriculture by videoconference. The UAE has great experience in using saline water from the subsoil in agriculture.

Agreement can generate comprehensive actions including in Africa

President Celso Moretti believes that one of the greatest advances must be in the institutional relationship that allows actions in different areas. It is possible, for example, to partner for the production of fruits and vegetables in the UAE in protected environments. Embrapa has expertise in the subject while the UAE has high technology equipment with a technical base and experience.

Another possibility discussed is the exchange of genetic material, management of natural resources and biodiversity, development of studies in bioenergy and aquaculture, particularly in the production of fish in water with a greater amount of salt.

The president of Embrapa assesses that “we can help on two fronts: to establish partnerships and businesses to help provide food security in the United Arab Emirates and to work together in other countries, particularly on the African continent. Several companies in the United Arab Emirates own land in Africa and are producing there with great interest in technology, products, services and equipment. ”

Brazil over the past five decades was the only country in the world that managed to develop technology for the tropical environment capable of generating large volumes of food. As an importer, Brazil today produces food to feed 7 times its population. “We feed 1.4 billion people in the world and the United Arab Emirates import more than 90% of the food they consume,” compares Moretti.

“Embrapa has technology for the tropical world, they have resources for investment and they want our production help not only in the Emirates, but also in Africa. We want to define a model for this partnership, as well as for other countries, but with the involvement of the Brazilian private sector so that they take advantage of the opportunities ”, says Moretti.

Four pillars of operation in the United Arab Emirates

During the mission's visit to the United Arab Emirates, there was an expression of interest about Embrapa helping to structure the country's agriculture, which would facilitate articulating joint actions in research, development and innovation. “They have public companies that take care of research, technical assistance, producers, a university that works with the agricultural area and the private sector. Our idea is to help in the institutional construction to coordinate this, including training ”.

The second pillar of action would be to support agricultural zoning for climate risk. “We have great experience in Brazil. We know what, where and when to plant in 44 production chains in a country of continental dimensions, with different biomes. It is possible to support them in this development. This will help them to make decisions and we want to actively participate in the result that this will bring ”.

Developing a territorial strategic intelligence system is the third pillar. With this, it would be possible to establish a system in which it is possible to have information about the natural framework (such as soils, relief, rainfall, altitude), the agrarian framework (including properties, size, number of producers), agricultural (example: goat herd, cattle, which is being produced in each region), the infrastructure (storage, for example) and socioeconomic framework. Integrated access to the set of information would facilitate and give quality to decision-making, something we have already achieved in Brazil.

The fourth pillar is a cooperative effort in Africa. “Private companies in the United Arab Emirates are producing in countries like Madagascar, Sudan and Namibia, but not with technologies with the quality of those developed in Brazil. Brazilian companies in animal, plant and machinery genetics, for example, would have great opportunities. The objective is to establish a partnership taking technology developed by Brazil and taking the private sector together to take advantage of the space that will open up in the United Arab Emirates and in the African continent ”, he explains. And give an example: Embrapa has wheat varieties adapted to the tropics. Large-scale adoption in Africa could mean a great opportunity for seed and equipment companies in Brazil.

The president of Embrapa explains that the whole process is led by Minister Tereza Cristina and the support of Apex-Brasil and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC / MRE). “In Africa, for example, we go beyond the partnership with the United Arab Emirates. The proposal is to work in cooperation with local government institutions, but also to count on the support of Apex and ABC to open the doors and create opportunities for the private area ”. He says the intention, at the moment, is not to open an office in Africa, but to act on projects.

One of the next steps is to evaluate with Minister Tereza Cristina and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the creation of an office in Abu Dhabi with support from the local government. “I am optimistic about the possibilities with the firm's ability to boost Embrapa projects and private sector business in the region. If there is a positive diagnosis, we can create it in 2020 ”, says Celso Moretti.

Visit to government agencies, companies and research institutes

The technical mission to Abu Dhabi and Dubai included visits to companies, government and research bodies. She was at Camelicious Farm; at Fish Farm (marine fish breeding and hatching company); at Agthia Group (a leading food and beverage company); at Al Dhahra Holding Company (multinational company specializing in the production of animal feed and food products in the supply chain); at Elite Agro (cultivation and sale of food products); and Jenan Investment Company.

Another site visited was the ADAFSA research station (Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Security Authority, responsible for agriculture, food security, food security and biosafety). Minister Mariam Al Meheiri received the Brazilian delegation on two occasions during the four-day visit.

In addition to the president of Embrapa, the Brazilian government's mission was attended by the secretary of Innovation, Rural Development and Map Irrigation and president of the Board of Directors of Embrapa (Consad), Fernando Camargo, a representative of the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency and Investimentos and the heads of Embrapa Hortaliças, Warley Nascimento; from Embrapa Mandioca e Fruticultura, Alberto Vilarinhos; and Embrapa Caprinos e Ovinos, Marco Aurélio Bomfim.