Portugal ducks out of world-class food fair “because it is too expensive”

Agricultural producers are seeing red over the government decision not to take part in Expo 2015 in Milan in May – an event likely to attract as many as 20 million visitors.

Quite apart from the fact that the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” perfectly fits the quality products coming out of Portugal, they complain no-one had even asked their opinion about taking part.

If they had, writes Público. The response would have been “unequivocal”.

“This would have been a great opportunity to show the world the potential of our agricultural production, principally in the sectors of olive oil, wine – essential products within the Mediterranean Diet and which today are sectors at the top of the world stage”, Luís Mira, secretary general of the confederation of Portuguese farmers (CAP) told the paper.

“Something is wrong here”, he added. “I cannot see the deputy prime minister Paulo Portas or (agriculture) minister Assunção Cristas wasting an opportunity like this”.

But Público’s inquiries as to who made the decision came up against something of a brick wall.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs passed us on to the office of the deputy prime minister Paulo Portas, who has responsibility for economic diplomacy”, the paper reports. “The office of Paulo Portas asked us to speak with the Ministry of Agriculture. And, at the end of the line, Assunção Cristas is left with the integral responsibility for a decision which has brought marked criticisms from the entire sector she manages”.

Público added that last year Portugal exported €5,450 million-worth of agricultural products – both in their natural form and transformed (tinned/ dried/ powdered etc.).

The figure represented a 7.7% growth on exports for 2013.

Assunção Cristas herself applauded the results as “excellent” – but clearly they were not excellent enough to discuss participation in Milan’s Expo with the country’s producers.

According to Público, the veto was based on the fact that a pavilion would cost anything between €6 million to €8 million just to secure – with considerable additional costs involved over the six month period in which Expo 2015 remains up and running.

According to the office of the Agricultural minister, the potential spots available for a Portugal pavilion “were not the most adequate in terms of representation”.

This is the first time in years that Portugal has ducked a world-class fair, Público stresses. What makes the decision even more controversial is that almost every other European country will be in Milan when the show opens in May.

Even Eastern Europe’s Belarus has been able to stump-up for a pavilion – as has cash-strapped Greece, Spain and Ireland.

“Only Croatia, the Nordic countries and Portugal” have opted out, concludes Público.

In all, 145 countries will be represented.

In a bid not to be totally left out in the cold, the board of PortugalFoods is today reported to be discussing a proposal received from AICEP (the government’s trade and investment agency) to take part in a promotional event for the Expo in Milan.

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