Brazilian food policies for fruits and vegetables: a nation-state strategy

Brazilian fruits and vegetables for Brazilians

Brazil is among the major exporters of fresh fruits in the world1, however Brazilians still consume less than one third2 out of the minimum daily 400g of fruits and vegetables (F&V) recommended by the World Health Organization3. This paradox is one of the several challenges to promote the consumption of F&V in the country, which relate to the food system as a whole.

Organic F&V, for instance, are considered luxury products as they are still very expensive. Traditional F&V from the Amazon and other Brazilian biomes are more rare and expensive in some Brazilian cities than in Europe. The production is still focused on the export market and this indicates there is a pressing need to develop policies that favour the inner consumption4.

Promoting the right to fruits and vegetables

The promotion of F&V cannot be restricted to a marketing campaign focused solely on consumption; it requires comprehensive actions based on wider perspectives such as the food and nutrition security and the human right to a healthy and adequate supply of food. Following these perspectives, this paper derives from an analysis convened by the National Cancer Institute of Brazil in 2009-2010 that looked at actions directly or indirectly related to the production, supply and/or promotion of F&V that have been developed by several government sectors.

Beyond education and campaigns

By analysing the proposals that have emerged from several political forums along the last 10 years, and the proposals implemented by the federal government, it is possible to identify the advances regarding the promotion of F&V in Brazil. Beforehand, it is noteworthy that these actions must go far beyond campaigning, they require structuring actions and the combination of different institutional mechanisms to foster and give support to a more comprehensive, integrative and systemic approach.

The recent and increasing democratisation of decision-taking forums and social participation in Brazil have been decisive on influencing and promoting social changes. Over time, the articulation between the civil society and social movements with the government in Brazil has been strengthened. Some strategic forums for establishing social pacts have been consolidated such as the National Council of Food and Nutrition Security and the National Council of Health, from where it emerged proposals that have resonated in public policies related to F&V.

It is also essential to have a legal background to protect public interests and fundamental rights. To cite some, in 2006, the Brazilian Law of Food and Nutrition Security was approved. This widened the political scope of actions, indicating that the promotion of foods such as fresh F&V must be associated to the transition to new models of production and supply that ensure not only sanitary and nutritional quality, but also environmental, social and economic sustainability, as well as the respect to cultural diversity5. Another federal law, from 2009, also stipulates that 70% of the budget for school meals – amounting in 2012 to an annual $US 1,6 billion for 41 million children – be spent on fresh F&V, and other minimally processed foods. It further requires that of this budget, at least 30 per cent should be locally sourced from cooperatives and family farms6. Additionally, several proposals of law are progressing within the Brazilian congress and senate to regulate the advertisement of products that compete with F&V, such as junk foods.

A State-nation strategy

To achieve a wide and sustained State-nation strategy to promote F&V, there are other actions in place in Brazil, besides the few cited here. The process to make them more comprehensive, articulated, and systemic includes: establishing a legal framework to ensure human rights; promoting social participation and political agreements through national councils; fostering programmes designed to promote new models of production articulated with education; and converging actions that affect production, supply, availability, affordability and consumption to reach, through strategic settings (e.g. schools, workplaces), different population groups.

  1. Perozzi M. Irradiação: tecnologia boa para aumentar exportações de frutas. Inovação Uniemp 2007; 3(5):42-44.
  2. IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística). Pesquisa de Orçamentos Familiares 2008-2009. Análise do consumo alimentar pessoal no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, 2011.
  3. WHO/FAO. Expert Report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. WHO Technical Report Series 916. Geneva: WHO/FAO, 2003.
  4. Martins A, Camargo WP, Bueno CB. Preços de frutas e hortaliças da agricultura orgânica no mercado varejista da cidade de São Paulo. Informações Econômicas 2006; 36(9):42-52.
  5. Brasil. Lei nº 11.346, de 15 de Setembro de 2006. Brasília: Presidência da República; 2009.
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