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Brazil's Agromercantil to boost coffee exports
The Tea & Coffee Trade Journal / December 2007

By Larry Luxner

SAO PAULO, Brazil — AC Agromercantil Ltda. hopes to increase its production of coffee to 120,000 60-kg bags in 2008, up from the current 80,000 bags a year.

Agromercantil is a major conglomerate involved in many aspects of agriculture including cattle breeding, sheep-raising and cultivation of corn and soybeans, as well as the production of animal feed for domestic needs.

Coffee represents only 10% of the company's total revenues, but even so, Agromercantil ranks as one of Brazilís top 20 coffee exporters.

Approximately 90% of the company's coffee production is exported, said Francisco P.A. Conde, marketing manager of both Agromercantil and its wholly owned subsidiary, Brasvending.

"This is a family holding. We used to work in the financial markets," said the 29-year-old Conde, who speaks excellent English thanks to the year he spent living in Sydney, Australia. "My grandfather started with coffee beans in 1960. Today, we have four coffee farms near Araxa in the state of Minas Gerais."

Conde said Agromercantilís coffee farms are focused in the region of Alto Paranaíba, which sits at an altitude of 1000 meters with regular rainfall, and has a propitious climate for the production of export-quality arabica coffee beans.

Of the company's 2,000 hectares of planted coffee, 1,200 hectares are irrigated using a central pivot and within it the "lepa" system, which helps balance the leaves and saves water and energy without causing erosion.

According to a company fact sheet, the area's normal rainfall allows for harvesting during the dry season, with no fungus attacking during the handling of the harvest, or during the drying and processing.

"The use of organic fertilizers allows for a balanced fertilizing process, without any environmental damage," says the company. "All these processes are carefully done within international scientific standards, maintaining healthy and productive crops in accordance with the preservation of natural resources."

Three years ago, Agromercantil won the international certification of the Rainforest Alliance. "It's not organic coffee," said Conde, "but our coffee is certified that we don't use underage workers or things like that."

The Agromercantil group as a whole employs 5,000 direct and indirect workers, of which 1,900 are specifically tied to the coffee production. Company employees live with their families in villages near the farm. Production is managed through the SAP-R3 computer system that tracks all stages of production.

Around 80% of Agromercantil's total coffee production is arabica, said Conde, who's been with the holding company for nearly seven years.

He said Brasvending is a relatively new company that operates over 6,000 coffee machines. Café Barista is the companyís own brand in Brazil, sold exclusively for use in its machines, while green coffee is exported under the Agromercantil label.

"We import the machines from Italy and the United States, and then rent them out to businesses," Conde said, estimating that the machines account for 20 tons of Café Barista sales annually.

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