Bacalhau is linked to holiday eating patterns in Brazil and is a feature of both Christmas and Easter feasts. At these times, when family memories tend to be the longest, Brazilians find comfort in eating bacalhau just the way that vovó (grandma) used to make it. But even when neither of the two large Christian holidays is near, Brazilians eat bacalhau for Sunday lunch, traditionally the biggest meal of the week, and for other daily meals and snacks.
Because cod is a cold-water fish and the waters in the oceans off Brazil's coasts are mostly warm water, up to now all of Brazil's bacalhau has had to be imported, 97% of the total coming from Norway. Each year, Brazil imports 30 thousand tons of the fish from Norway to meet its needs, making Brazil the largest cod-importing nation in the world. In 2010, Brazil spent 1.03 billion Norwegian kroners (about 175m USD) buying salt cold. That's a lot of money, and that's just the import price. By the time bacalhau arrives at the retail level, whether fish shop or super market, it has become a very expensive food. Average Brazilian retail price in 2011 was approximately R$90/kg, which works out to about USD$22.60/lb. But even with these high prices, which go higher every year, Brazilians do not seem to be willing to forego their bacalhau.
|Location of Maraã|
At the end of 2011, the first commercial production of "bacalhau da Amazônia" reached supermarkets in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon basin, as well as other cities in the region just in time for the Christmas season. The retail price ranged between R$35 and R$50 per kilo, or about half of the price of Norwegian bacalhau. Customers liked the price, of course, and first reports are that they also liked the product, comparing it favorably to true bacalhau.
In many ways, the potential for "bacalhau da Amazônia" is enormous. The world's largest fresh-water fish, farmed sustainably, used to supply the world's largest import market for salt cold - it all makes very good sense. Flavors of Brazil wonders if the Norwegians might be looking at this scheme with a nervous eye.