TRAVERSE CITY — There’s a chance Michigan agricultural produce will make an appearance at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
That’s because representatives from two northern Michigan-based distributors and cooperatives — Graceland Fruit of Frankfort and North Bay Produce of Traverse City — met this week with wholesalers, retailers and importers in Brazil to discuss export opportunities in what they perceive as an emerging market.
North Bay Produce Sales Manager Nick Osmulski said Brazil’s rising middle class makes it an attractive export location.
“We’re seeing it in ... China, India, Brazil. They’re all in that same boat as far as having more money to spend on items than they have in the past as far as apples from us or blueberries,” he said.
The two northern Michigan companies are part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Department international program’s trade mission that focuses on expanding markets for apples, dried fruit and other produce. Michigan Apple Committee, BelleHarvest of Belding and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials also participated in the Brazil visit.
International program manager Jamie Zmitko-Somers said the option to attend the trip was extended to all Michigan companies.
It’s wise that they form relationships now, given Brazil’s plans to host two major events in coming years, she said.
“When demand increases in a couple years due to athletes and visitors coming, we’ll already have those relationships established,” she said.
Brazil’s growing season is opposite of that in North America and puts Michigan growers in a position to export apples from October to January.
Zmitko-Somers said there’s also room for Michigan blueberries in the market. Brazil’s interest in dried fruit is “very new,” but Michigan dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries eventually could be exported year-round.