The Brazilian Rural Marketing and Agribusiness Association (ABMRA) aims to transform the way people perceive agribusiness by connecting rural areas to urban centers. The strategy is to showcase the benefits that agriculture delivers to daily life and establish a connection between rural producers and end consumers.
“Our mission is to make agribusiness a national passion, just like football and Carnival,” explained Ricardo Nicodemos, the 55-year-old president of ABMRA. Alongside a team of experts, the advertising professional developed an action plan based on extensive market research.
The result is the “Agro Brand of Brazil” project, which has the support of several traditional institutions that are part of its council. These include the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, the Meat Intelligence Center of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock.
Oeste spoke with Nicodemos to understand what the average Brazilian knows about life in rural areas and what path is proposed to awaken admiration for this segment. Check out the main excerpts from the interview.
Why does agribusiness need to communicate better?
Perceptions. Those who have a mistaken perception come to consider it as reality. Communication is important to show the truth and to create a connection. It is also important to tell your own version of the story. Thirdly, it is important to have the admiration of the population. It is almost unimaginable that such an important sector is not seen in this way. It is necessary to value the work of the rural producer, of that family that produces food, in addition to providing hundreds of raw materials that supply industries, whether they are in shoes, clothes, books, etc. All of this comes from agribusiness. And the population is not obligated to know these things, especially if I do not communicate these facts well.
Does the population know the sector’s participation in daily life?
Not yet. We conducted a survey with various segments of the population, and at one point in this diagnosis, we talked to mothers and children. We asked them where the milk they have at home comes from and where French fries come from. Invariably, the answer was “From the supermarket”. With a little persistence, the interviewees would arrive at the industry. Very rarely does the rural producer appear in the story. They do not link the milk to the milking of a cow, carried out by a family that woke up at 4 a.m. to do this work. The same thing happens with potatoes, which do not simply come from the industry. Someone had to plant and water them, before they arrived, for example, at fast-food restaurants.
How does McDonald’s, for example, fit into agribusiness?
All fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, are assembly lines of agribusiness. They do not exist without rural production. There is no food industry without agriculture and livestock.
Whose mission is it to show this to the population?
We need to gather the entire agribusiness production chain in this mission, from raw material production in the field to the transformation industry. It is a broad mission that begins in research institutes such as Embrapa and universities. Then there is the input industry, which manufactures, for example, tractors, tools, and fertilizers. After that, there are retailers such as agribusiness stores that bring these products to the field. Then we reach the producers: everything that happens inside the farm gate, including agriculture and livestock. Next is what happens outside the farm gate: cooperatives and transforming industries with various items we use daily, such as food, clothing, footwear, energy, and paper. From there, there are distributors, from stores to shopping centers. All agents that reach consumers have every interest in valuing agribusiness.
What is the biggest lie told about agricultural production today?
That it is not sustainable. Rural production is indeed sustainable and is increasingly moving in that direction. We have a lot to do, but we have made significant progress. For instance, when asked about the subject, 87% of farmers said they are aware of and concerned about sustainability. There are also other misconceptions that need to be debunked.
What other misconception would you highlight?
One example is the issue of agricultural pesticides. This is a more elaborate case. It is not a lie that Brazil is one of the largest consumers of these products in the world. However, this is only a small piece of the truth that, when viewed this way, harms the image of this industry. The full story is that Brazil is on this list because it is the only country that has three crops in the same space, in the same year, practices agriculture in a tropical area (which increases the emergence of pests), and still has one of the lowest uses of these same pesticides per square meter and per ton produced. National foods are among those with the lowest chemical residue.
How can we combat this misinformation?
By telling the complete story in the correct order: “Brazil is one of the nations with the least use of pesticides per square meter and ton produced and has one of the lowest amounts of chemical residues in food. In the country, three crops are produced per year in tropical climate areas, which promotes the emergence of pests. Therefore, in total volume, we are among the largest consumers of pesticides in the world. This sequence changes perception.”
In general, do Brazilians view agribusiness positively?
Seven out of ten Brazilians have a positive attitude towards the sector. This means that people have a good thought about the subject. The majority see agribusiness as a great generator of wealth for the country and a source of pride for Brazilians. Additionally, they consider the segment innovative, although they cannot say how. But I have the other three who are prone to boycott and speak ill. The most alarming thing is that 51% of this group are between 15 and 29 years old. These are young people. This group sees the sector as retrograde, outdated, and without innovation. In other words, there is a great mission: to show all the technology embedded, such as tractors with cockpits that look more like spacecraft, with pure mechatronics and design technology.
What factors lead to this hostility?
Our study showed some of these factors. The first is lack of knowledge. The sector does not provide information to create a knowledge environment. The second factor is physical and social distance. Not everyone has a friend or relative who works in the field, and this is social distance. The physical aspect is that many people do not know rural production, have never visited a farm, or spent vacations on a farm hotel. This audience becomes vulnerable to consuming information without criteria.
What response can ABMRA provide to change this?
After conducting a survey on Brazilians’ perceptions of agribusiness, we designed the Marca Agro do Brasil project, a work plan that also involves campaigns. Our goal is to turn the sector into a national passion, like football and carnival are today. It is a multidisciplinary project to work on several fronts, starting with preschool. We want to show all age groups what Brazil’s agribusiness is. If necessary, we will even do dances on digital platforms to get the information to those who need it.
Why start with preschool?
The farmer is a hero without a cape who works 365 days a year to generate food or raw materials. If we do not show that someone milks the cow, the child will continue to think that the milk comes from the industry. We need to change that to awaken pride in agribusiness.
How to talk to children?
In the project, there is a group of professionals specialized in teaching methodologies working for this. We will provide the child with the same information conveyed to adults but with different languages suitable for that age group.
Will this project also cover international audiences?
Brazilians still don’t know that they can be the main responsible for the world’s food security. This shows that first we have to do our homework. That’s what we’re focused on, which takes five to ten years. We want to reach 95% of the population with a positive attitude towards rural producers, the big stars. We have to show their image as they are portrayed in American movies, admired.
When is the kick-off of the Marca Agro do Brasil project?
We went through the diagnosis phase. It started in 2021 and ended in 2022, with the execution of the “Perceptions about agro, what Brazilians think” survey. Then, the planning work began, where we created the Marca Agro do Brasil. Now, we have implemented ten councils. Among them is the experts’ council, with well-known names such as Roberto Rodrigues, Minister of Agriculture between 2003 and 2006; Xico Graziano; José Luiz Tejon; and Marcos Fava Neves. We also have councils of associations and scientists. We seek the best in the sector, with around one hundred people working.
Where will the funding for the entire project come from?
From the private sector. From the entire agricultural production chain. From those companies that produce inputs, through rural producers, to transformation industries such as food and paper, and the distribution segment. They all have an interest in promoting the good image of agribusiness. Our schedule is to have the project ready for fundraising by July.
What is the great truth about rural production that has not yet been told in the project?
That agribusiness makes our lives better. It provides us with food and the conveniences of our daily lives. The countryside provides us with raw materials for clothing, footwear, cosmetics, clean energy, and many other things. Without the sector, we wouldn’t even have tires for our cars.