Universities and research centers outline actions to improve the scenario and present successful
In a country with almost 27% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coming from agribusiness, promoting and supporting sustainable land use with solid scientific foundations is not merely fancy. It is a need to contribute to the environment and guarantee the continuity of business relationships with buyers outside the country. One way to do this is to expand food traceability and follow a global demand for greater transparency in production chains. In several projects supported by Fundep, this path has been pursued.
Traceability is intended to ensure that the production chain is mapped to guarantee that the origin of products and the supply chain is identifiable. It is to have certainty that data is generated in the production process until arrival at the point of sale so that the final consumer is also able to have secure information about the path taken by what he decides to buy.
Britaldo Soares, Professor at the Department of Cartography at the Institute of Geosciences at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), assesses that Brazil is still slipping in adopting the most fundamental concept to improve its productive chain: transparency. Furthermore, currently, organizations that claim to use traceability concepts do, at best, quality control. “What we strongly need is transparency and for data to be increasingly public”, he stresses.
He also explains that events such as the 2006 soy moratorium and the interruptions in the supply of meat and the expansion of biodiesel sales to the European Union are clear signs that the country has not yet understood the need to improve its practices. Despite the importance of traceability, companies have moved towards this process due to two circumstances: “It is either because of a mobilization of the State, which at this moment, is not taking place – on the contrary – or it is because of reputational risk. Traceability is also a great investment in image,” he says.
The professor’s assessment comes after years of researching deforestation in the Amazon Forest and positive incentives for agribusiness to engage in the preservation of Brazilian biomes. In addition, with the SeloVerde project, launched in April of this year, which helps in the monitoring and evaluation of sustainable agricultural development in the State of Pará, in the Amazon region.
The adoption of traceability is also seen from two other angles by Rodolpho Titini, Professor at the Institute of Agrarian Sciences at UFMG: the guarantee of product quality for the consumer, creating accountability for the brand he consumes, and also strengthening the links in the supply chain, improving any sector in general.
“[Traceability] adds value to the product. Every producer wants something that is more expensive on the shelf, regardless of whether it will be more consumed or not, you have added value. We have a need from abroad. If we don’t carry out international traceability, we don’t guarantee quality at the tip”, explains Tinini.
According to the professor, the markets that most demand product screening are currently Europe, mainly due to the consumption of meat and soy; and Asia and the Middle East because of the consumption of halal meat and other types. In 2020 alone, agribusiness exports represented 48% of the entire financial volume sent abroad. Even in the pandemic, there were more than US$ 100 million in food exported in value last year.
Traceability in the food sector has not yet reached levels corresponding to its importance in relation to Brazil’s GDP. A survey carried out by the GS1 company, responsible for creating the current bar code standard for tracking products in Brazil, shows that among 4 sectors surveyed – food, health, companies in general and industry – food is the one with the least adherence to monitoring. From a group of 235 companies interviewed, only 64% had all the foods of their business model identified, while other sectors evaluated had percentages above 71%.
Despite this number, the same survey indicates that 94% of companies in the sector intend to invest something in innovation and technology in 2021 and more than 95% consider it very important to have a bar code on the products to be sold.
The director of GS1, Nilson Gasconi, says that there is still a lot of room for the adoption of traceability practices via bar code in Brazil, but technologies such as RFID and 2D are gaining adherence as they offer more information to the consumer. “It meets everything the consumer is looking for in terms of information. He wants to be able to read the QRCode and go to the company’s website and see that the product has batch 1, 2, 3 and 4, to know if this impacts him and in what way”, he says.