The Portuguese government is intensifying efforts to broaden market access for its fruits and vegetables as part of a wider strategy to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. Praising industry association Portugal Fresh’s mission to double the country’s fresh produce exports by 2020, agriculture minister Assunção Cristas told Fruitnet that the government’s aim was for the value of total agricultural exports to exceed that of imports.
In the past three years, fruit and vegetable exports have grown at an annual rate of 8 per cent, reaching €998m in 2013, and last year they were tipped to break through the €1bn barrier for the first time.
“Portugal must have the ambition to be known as the jewel of European agriculture. We are a small producer, but thanks to the influence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic Portuguese products have a unique quality,” she said. “Our goal is to reach out to more markets as well as to increase sales in existing markets.”
Brazil, China, South Africa, Japan, Mexico, Chile, the US and India are amongst the 15 countries that the government is currently negotiating with to gain access for a number of products including table grapes, citrus, stonefruit, kiwifruit and berries.
Cristas said one of the key challenges the country faces is to improve its competitiveness by encouraging more collaboration between producers through the creation of Producer Organisations. “Increasing the scale of supply is a crucial factor in enabling us to reach international markets,” she observed, adding that the government has allocated €15m through the Rural Development Programme, PDR 2020, to support investment in production and encourage the creation of POs.
Some 40-50 Portuguese companies will take part in next week’s Fruit Logistica trade show, for which Portugal has been named partner country. Covering an area of around 600m2, the national pavilion will be Portugal’s biggest ever presence at the event.
“Fruit Logistica is the ideal platform from which to promote our country,” Cristas said. “It is amazing that we have been chosen to be the official partner country just four years after attending the show for the first time.”