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Iraq Imports Brazilian Canned Tuna For The First Time

Last week at the port of Itajaí (Santa Catarina - Brazil), Gomes da Costa Cannery initiated the loading of the very first batch of fish sold to Iraq by a Brazilian company. It was 300 thousand cans of tuna, a deal totaling U$250 thousand, according to international sales director Dario Chemerinski.

The company became interested in the Arab countries market three years ago when it first exported tuna to Libya. The North African country is the world’s highest per-capita fish consumption says Chemerinski.

Each Libyan consumes an average of 5 pounds of tuna per year, considerably higher than the 3.5 pounds per capita annually consumed in Spain – Calvo’s country of origin. Calvo group owns Gomes da Costa since 2004, and is vice-leader in this ranking

The shipment to Iraq, Libya and other Muslim countries does not require the adoption of Islamic rituals as required for the slaughter of chickens, cattle and other animals, says the director, but there are changes to the product in order to fit the profile of such countries.

Apart from labels and packaging in local language, the fish flavor is also modified. "In country visits, fairs and sales to these markets, we learned that they prefer a less salty fish that the ones consumed in Brazil," says Chemerinski.

The product exported to Arab countries has 40% less sodium than the ones sold in the Brazilian market. Gomes da Costa also has been exporting canned sardines to Libya, Lebanon and other markets, a product not yet offered to the Iraqi market.

"With oil revenues, quality of life has improved, consumption got more sophisticated and tuna is now part of this context," says the director. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya are among the world's top ten importers of the product.

Foreign sales still account for a small slice of total revenue but it keeps growing. In 2008, the company registered revenues of R$320 million - U$13 million in exports.

This year, foreign sales should reach U$20 million - the Arab countries already account for 15% of the total. Since the company first shipped to Australia, it began selling to 30 countries in all continents.