Coordinated by Idesam, the Maués Guaraná Alliance (AGM, for its name in Portuguese) raised data from various agents of the guaraná production chain – the iconic fruit from the state of Amazonas
Text and photo by Henrique Saunier
Translated by Felipe Sá
A study released today by the Maués Guaraná Alliance (AGM) has as its main goal to improve the sector, adding more value to the product. It highlights some challenges linke: understanding the functioning structure of the guaraná value chain in Maués, analyzing production costs and its financial viability, and identifying strengths and obstacles.
Today, Maués is the largest producer of guaraná from family-based agriculture in the state of Amazonas. In the past years Presidente Figueiredo became the top producer in absolute numbers, with a small difference of three tons. Even though this is not key to the study, it helps understanding how Maués “lost the lead” to another municipality.
The research identified that little modernized techniques and strong presence of middlemen combined with the logistic cost make producers from the region to run at a loss.
The landscape presented in the study “The Value Chain of the Guaraná from Maués” (“A Cadeia de Valor do Guaraná de Maués”, in Portuguese) – carried out by the AGM in collaboration with the producers themselves and others engaged in the local segment – was not exactly uplifting: all the production levels that were analyzed (cloned and native guaraná) pointed to expenses that are above market prices, what means that the producers have financial loss. This was a reality noticed in the general averages of the interviews applied to the producers, all verified in participatory workshops.
The structure and techniques used by traditional producers are exactly the ones their ancestors used, what makes the product from Maués more artisanal, but with lower productivity and also lower revenue to the producers. One of the cases exemplified in the study is the fermentation process of the guaraná fruits, which are arranged on the floor (masonry floor or plastic canvas), in raffia bags or in a structure called “gareira”.
After the fermentation, the pulp is removed, what is done in a precarious way, treading the fruits placed on the ground. Some farmers with larger productions invested in an adapted motorized machine that removes the guaraná pulp, but these are still exceptions.
Another cost that weighs on the producer’s pocket is directly linked to middlemen and logistics, inherent to this commercial relationship. The toasted seed, which is destined to the soda industry, is mostly marketed to agroindustries via middlemen and producers’ association. The producer pays all transportation expenses, what can cost from R$30 to R$200 per trip by inland waterway or land (in the case of a few properties that have access to the road).
The commerce via middlemen is the main way of distributing the production according to 86% of the interviewed producers. In general, companies don’t close purchase and sale agreements with producers, since only 6% of those who were interviewed told that they have some sort of agreement made.
For Laís Bentes, agronomist and responsible for the AGM Sustainable Production Working Group, all this information will contribute in the strategic measures and decisions that need to be made to organize the guaraná segment from now on.
“These data can help at various points along the chain, whether in the area of crop treatment and management, production, or the different techniques applied to ‘cloned’ or organic guaraná. The diagnosis will help us having a better view on social organization, associativism and to start awakening in them the will for organization, accessing new markets”, Bentes highlights.
What can be done
The main choke points mentioned by the producers, such as low selling price, high production costs, dependence of intermediaries and difficulties to access markets with differentiated prices, are fundamental points that need to be more directly tackled. The first aspect raised by the study is about improvement of the conditions of purchase and sale and transfer of prices to the producer of toasted seeds through a greater traceability of the products traded by intermediaries, trying to ensure that the price paid to the producer is not inferior to that of production.
The second aspect concerns the development of the value-added guaraná market, strengthening local organizations and entrepreneurs to market the fruit in powder, cane or other by-products to a differentiated market.
The Association of Family Farmers of Alto Urupadí (AAFAU) is a positive example which is already organized to access international markets with its organic product. The association is currently raising funds to get certified and access working capital. In addition to financial support, it seeks help to better understand the market requirements and to establish a market and business plan.
Ednamar de Oliveira Viana, secretary of the AAFAU and also agricultural producer, said that the difficulty faced when trying to access different markets was one of the motivations for the group to get organized and try getting certified. Ednamar confirms that the current production is mainly sold by intermediaries what, in her opinion, doesn’t mean a fair market. “We are too dependent on middlemen, and with guaraná reaching lower prices, there are no conditions to sell at a fair price”, she completes.
Another important item recommended in the study is to help productive groups to insert themselves into more integrated logics of production, such as the valorization of Local Productive Arrangements themselves.
“Maués has an important and historic productive arrangement that values local identity and generates income to family farmers, but is undergoing a critical period of transition and, according to farmers, is collapsing. All links in the chain need to think together with the family farmer, from a shared, collective and appropriate vision to the reality of producers”, emphasizes Eric Brosler, technical coordinator of the AGM.
The Maués Guaraná Alliance is coordinated by Idesam, with the support of Ambev and USAID – founding partners and funders of the initiative. The AGM seeks the biocultural valorization of the region and also to improve the quality of life in Maués, interacting and building together with the various local actors.
Launched in October 2017, the Alliance has been carrying out concrete actions through the Working Groups in Education, Sustainable Production, Tourism and Socio-Cultural Production. These themes are considered cornerstones by the participants for a sustainable and shared development of the municipality and its extensive rural area.