No fruits to be had at the Portuguese Agriculture Fair?

This week I visited the Portuguese Agricultural Trade Fair, near Lisbon, and found it very disappointing.

My interest was to find producrs of local Agricultural products who I could introduce to buyers at various overseas Supermarkets.

This was a great opportunity for me to meet a host of Portuguese producers, and I expected that to come away with a bag full of contacts, covering a variety of Agricultural produce, who would all benefit from being introduced to large foreign buyers.

However, to my complete surprise there were almost zero agricultural producers: no growers of either fruits or vegetables at the fair – except for a small stand from Fundao, selling cherries.

As this fair is important enough to warrant the presence of the countries Prime Minister, it amazed me that no one had seem to invite any foreign buyers – or at least I didn’t see any other foreigners.

Moreover, even if foreign buyers had been invited, they would have been as equally disappointed as me, as the variety of products on offer was extremely limited.

I did see many sellers of Olive Oil, and some local producers of “average” wines, but beyond that it was impossible to find producers of any other agricultural products, which we could introduce to UK supermarkets.

There were things to buy at the fair, but the main exhibitors were promoting “foreign-made” products: German Tractors, Italian trucks, Chinese-made tools. We even had an exhibitor from Brazil promoting holidays in Brazil… (What this has to do with Portuguese agricultural I still don’t understand).

The biggest stand promoting agricultural products was owned by a supermarket chain, and next to them was a stand for MacDonald’s? – (The hamburger chain, not the old guy who had a farm).

Perhaps my perception about the purpose of a an Agricultural Fair is wrong, but with government funding involved, surely the aim must be to help increase Portuguese agricultural exports of all types.

Portugal needs to increase its exports. And a fair is a great opportunity to show case products. But if you do not show your produce, and you do not invite or attract foreign buyers, what’s the point?

The people who arrange these events need to have a reality check.

I know there is a massive pride in the nation’s olive oil and wine industries, and I can appreciate that the countries agricultural industry has suffered over recent decades due to a lack of investment and focus – but that is no excuse, not to showcase what the country CAN produce, especially considering today’s economic conditions.

This Fair offered little more than an opportunity for “a day out” for the people of Lisbon, and a “photo opportunity” for the Prime Minister. It did little to promote an increase in exports for the Portuguese Agricultural industry.

For many foreigners the stereotypical view of Portugal is, “it is the land of Port wine, Sardines and Golf courses”. And whilst certain people are trying to change this perception, unless the government and the people arranging these fairs make more effort, this perception will not change.

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