Special report: It is the home of samba, sunshine and soccer, but could Brazil be a lucrative trading partner for East Anglia?
- Credit: AP
The prominence of the World Cup has beamed Brazil's eclectic culture of sunshine, samba and soccer into homes across the country.
And while much has been made of the nation's social problems, it is still on course to capture the economic upsurge that comes from hosting the world's greatest sporting event.
But as the UK government urges businesses to increase their export capacity, the question remains: is the South American nation a business opportunity worth exploiting?
With a population of nearly 200 million people and an emerging rich middle class, Brazil has all the makings of a market place where UK goods and services can thrive.
But the export figures tell a different story. The east of England may have had periods of strengthening trade, but the performance fluctuates – and has even started to taper off.
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By the end of 2011, exports to Brazil were up 25pc compared to 2010, with trade reaching £124m. This was followed by a year of further growth in 2012, when exports soared by 21pc to £150.5m.
In recent years, however, this progress has started to reverse. By the end of 2013, exports to Brazil were down 15pc compared to 2012 at £127.8m. Meanwhile, total exports of goods for the 12 months to the end of March 2014, compared to the year before, were down by 34pc at £102m.
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This fall in export orders can be partly explained by the slowdown in the Brazilian economy. The 7.5pc growth in GDP seen in 2010 has cooled to a more modest growth rate of 0.7pc in the last quarter of last year.
Meanwhile, David Revitt, International Trade Advisor for UKTI East, believes the fall in exports could also caused by a lack of perseverance from east of England businesses when faced by a notoriously difficult market.
'We have found that exports in Brazil got off to great start,' he said. 'But like the gold rush in America, it is now starting to diminish, because some businesses realised that it is not easy.'
'Brazil is a fantastic market – and a huge one. It has its social problems, but it has a rich middle class and a lot of people with money to spend.
'However, a company cannot have a quick win in Brazil. They need a long term strategy, because it can take a long time to get business flowing.
'There culture will seem strange to us because they do business with people not companies.
'And whereas Brits want to meet at a set time, the Brazilians will turn up when they want to, the meeting will go on for a long time, and they will not want to talk business until they have built up a relationship with you.'
Although there are clear barriers to doing business with Brazil, some East Anglia firms have remained focused on establishing a foothold.
Norwich-based Brandbank and digital marketing agency Further have both explored the prospect, while it is understood that the electrical retailer Hughes is looking to secure contracts ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
What's more, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce – which held its Better Business in Brazil event last November – has seen an increase in exports to the World Cup nation – albeit from a small base.
Between June 2012 and May 2013, they recorded one agricultural company completing an £8,000 order, compared to the same period this year where five companies across four sectors notched more than £267,0000.
Mr Revitt believes that the east of England has the potential to up its export orders – but it will come from our knowledge-based services and expertise, not our products.
'The difficulty businesses have is that Brazil does not want products it already manufactures, it only wants to import products that have a unique selling point,' he said. 'In the east of England when it comes to our knowledge-based industries we do well, but manufactured products is difficult.
'The issue comes because Brazil already has a lot of manufacturing and the import duties are high.
'That said, it is a large market of 200 million people and Brazil has a free trade agreement with Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and Argentina, so it is a gateway to other South American markets, which helps make it an attractive offer.'
• Do you have a business story? Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email email@example.com