From fast cars to fertilisers, pills to pipeline parts, UK manufacturers have been finding a growing market for their products in Brazil. Exports dipped in 2014 — as a result of slowing growth in Brazil — but long-term trends appear good. Over the past four years UK exports to Brazil have risen by 50 per cent, contributing to a doubling of bilateral commerce during the past decade.
Last year 11,627 British cars, 58m bottles (70cl litre) of Scotch whisky and £110m ($169m) worth of insecticides were sold to Brazil, according to the Brazilian ministry of development, industry and commerce. Other sought-after items included helicopter parts, pharmaceuticals and electric generators.
British-made luxury cars were in demand from wealthy Brazilians, tripling UK car exports to Latin America’s biggest country in five years. A decade ago Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover, owned by Tata Motors of India, scarcely figured but are all among the beneficiaries.
The Range Rover’s Evoque, Discovery and Freelander models are among the best selling high-end motors and make up over half the premium SUV market. “The luxury end is the British end and premium lines are what’s driving growth for our brands,” says Mike Hawes, chief executive at the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. While sales of the big four — Fiat, Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen — fell by almost a third between 2013 and 2014, BMW, Jaguar and Mini sales were up by close to a quarter.
High Brazilian import tariffs slowed sales last year, encouraging Jaguar Land Rover to make plans for local production. The group is due to open a plant in Rio de Janeiro early next year.
Drinks makers have made big strides in the last few years, with Scotch whisky a relative newcomer. Brazilian taxes on alcohol historically favour cachaça, the national spirit, over imports. But tastes are changing and the popularity of Diageo’s Black and Red Label Johnnie Walker among the middle classes helped push UK exports to Brazil from £27m in 2004 to £79.7m in 2014, driving total shipments of UK Scotch to the Americas and Caribbean to £1.3bn last year — a quarter of the global total, says the Scotch Whisky Association
While revenues of overall whisky exports to Brazil fell 20 per cent last year, sales of Diageo’s Scotch brands grew in volume and value in the year to July, with a 5.3 per cent rise in retail value sales, according to data specialists Nielsen.
British expertise in invisibles such as insurance, security and construction services pushed the UK into becoming the second largest service provider in Brazil after the US in 2013. “It’s this category where the UK is particularly strong,” says Peter Heap, former British ambassador to Brazil, and chairman of the Brazilian Chamber of Commerce in London.
For its part, Brazil is diversifying exports to the UK. Manufactured products are starting to have more weight over traditional agriculture products like beef, chicken and coffee. Last year Brazilian aircraft exports to the UK increased nine per cent, and engines and vehicle parts by nearly 11 per cent.
Brazil’s chicken exports fly high
Frozen chicken breasts from Brazil’s vast slaughterhouses in the southern state of Santa Catarina have been making their way onto British supermarket shelves since the late 1990s.
Chicken is big business in Brazil. It maintained pole position as the world’s largest chicken exporter for the 11th consecutive year in 2014, shipping 4.1m tonnes to markets from the Middle East to Malaysia — almost a third more than the second largest global exporter, the US. The UK’s appetite for chicken has contributed to a rise in Brazil’s poultry exports of nearly 13 per cent year-on-year in 2014 and a steady 3 per cent over the decade.
Brazilian food groups are stepping up their presence in Britain. Moy Park, the largest producer of poultry in the UK that markets goods from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is owned by JBS of Brazil. The multibillion-dollar company runs food-processing plants in Dungannon, Craigavon and Ballymena in Northern Ireland, supplying grocers and high-street restaurant chains across Europe.
Halal certified chicken is another popular item Brazil is keen to sell to the 3m British Muslims — a figure that the Muslim Council of Britain estimates will grow to 4.9m by 2021. Trade deals with a number of Muslim countries in recent years has helped give a healthy boost to export revenues. Brazil’s branded Perdigão chickens are top sellers in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE. Shipments to Malaysia, that began earlier this year, will open up Brazil’s poultry market to an additional 30m Muslims according to the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA).