Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Did Your Breakfast Melon Come From?

If you live in the Netherlands, the UK, the United States, Germany or Spain (in that descending order) there's a good chance that the melon you ate this morning for breakfast came from Brazil. And if it was exported from Brazil it was most likely shipped from a port that you've never heard of - Pecém, Ceará, just 30 miles (50 km) from Fortaleza, Flavors of Brazil's home base.


In an article published today by Fortaleza's newspaper O Povo, there were a number of interesting statistics about the large export market in Brazil for fruits. The statistics detailed which fruits are shipped from Brazil to the northern Hemisphere, where they were grown in Brazil and where they were shipped from.


The shipment of fresh fruits plays an enormous part in the international trade in fresh foods. Consumers in North America and Europe, who until recently only ate fresh fruit when it was in season locally, are now accustomed to having their choice of fresh fruit available year round - strawberries in January, grapes in November, oranges. mangoes and papayas at any time of year. Because Brazil enjoys a tropical climate and because it's located in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, it enjoys a privileged location in serving consumer demand in the Northern Hemisphere.


The northeastern state of Ceará is the part of Brazil that is closest to Europe and to the East Coast of North America, so it makes sense that its share of the export market would be large. Fully 45% of the total exports of Brazilian fruits ships from Pecém. The next largest port, Santos, in the state of São Paulo, ships 14% of the fruit market, and Salvador, Bahia, in third position, ships 12%.
Port of Pecém

The container ships that sail from Pecém carry fruits primarily to the Netherlands, the destination of 35% of Brazilian fruits, to the UK (25%), the USA (15%), Germany (13%) and Spain (6%). In the first 11 months of 2011, the total tonnage of fruits shipped from Pecém was 246,000 tons. That's a lot of fruit. In that total, 103,000 tons were melons, mangoes (49,000 tons), grapes (39,000 tons), bananas (36,000 tons), watermelons (19,000 tons) and cashew nuts (19,000 tons). 


Next time you shop for melons or mangoes, check the little sticker that shows country of origin. If it's Brazil, your breakfast fruit is likely to have been grown in Brazil's northeast and left Brazil in a container on board a ship that sailed from Pecém. At least now you know where the place is.

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