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Harvesting Brazil's Beauty

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: December 3, 2008, from the December 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

The weighing room at Belém’s Ver-o-Peso (“see the weight”) open air market.

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These challenges and the poverty prevalent across the country aside, Brazil’s economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets. Its beauty industry is leveraging its size, as well as both the country’s natural resources and the experience of its rural population, which has an expertise in harvesting and utilizing naturally sourced ingredients ingrained over generations of use. Approximately 300 communities in the Amazon provide oils and extracts, based on companies that have reported sourcing, and the government became involved in May 2008 to develop and refine this sourcing process. The industry, too, has been active in fortifying its future, investing R$600 million in the production technologies—according to ABIHPEC.

It must be noted here that mid-sized Brazilian beauty marketers do not shun chemicals in beauty products. Many of these companies don’t build their lines on a platform of natural, but do, however, leverage the ingredients that make Brazilian products unique—which are the natively sourced and natural components.

Beauty exports are expected to reach $650 million in 2008, but Silva knows that’s not anywhere near the country’s potential, noting that Brazil’s population is 10 times that of Colombia. However, its beauty exports are 10 times less than that of its northern neighbor. This is due to both the tangled bureaucracy within Brazil and the thoroughly thorny bureaucratic web of Latin America as a whole.

“Reducing bureaucracy in Latin America can help increase the amount we export,” said Silva. “Currently, Argentina is the biggest importer of Brazilian beauty products. To reach a number two standing (in market value), we must overcome these challenges.”

Beraca and the Santa Luzia de Tomé-Açu Community*

Belém, situated on the estuary of the Tocantins and Pará rivers, approximately 60 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, was founded as a Portuguese river port around 1615, and grew into a city of commercial importance as a port inward to the Amazon in the late 19th century. The city still serves as a starting point for excursions deeper into the Amazon region, and the city and its Ver-o-Peso market also served as an apt introduction to later sights on a Beraca-guided trip to Santa Luzia de Tomé-Açu—a community with which Beraca works to source and promote raw materials in a sustainable manner.