In an everchanging socio-economic and political environment, nurturing relationships with our suppliers has never been more important.
We were only too delighted to be invited to attend the 35th anniversary celebration of Agrodan, the biggest producer and exporter of mangos in Brazil. To us, the team behind Agrodan are simply friends, and after years of Covid-induced Zoom calls we seized the opportunity to take a trip to see them in person. Being so actively involved in the growing of exotic fruit has led to lifelong relationships with the people and the communities behind the produce. We know their stories, their families, and their goals, so it didn’t come as a surprise that we were welcomed with open arms the moment we landed.
The Agrodan farm lies northeast of Petroleo, in Belem de Sao Francisco, the hinterland of Pernambuco. 35 years ago, Paulo Dantas and his brothers decided to make their father’s land more productive by growing mangos. The enterprise soon bore fruit and led to the growth of a community; today it boasts seven farms and packhouses burgeoning with ripe mangoes ready to be sent to Western and Eastern Europe via Natal, Salvador, and Fortaleza. Philanthropy is as close to Paulo’s heart as it is to ours: in recent years he has built homes for the workers and a school in the local village just outside the farm compound.
Named in honour of Paulo’s mother, Escola Professora Olindina Roriz Dantas is attended by more than 300 children aged between 3 and 13. Much like Radville Nemakunku School in The Gambia, it has changed the economic and social profile of the region, offering children – mainly but not exclusively sons and daughters of employees – an opportunity to learn that is so rarely found in the middle of the Caatinga vegetation. Affectionately, Paulo refers to the students as his 324 ‘grandchildren’ and he has fought hard to ensure that they not only receive an education, but food and stationery too. With plans to build a high school underway, it is unsurprising that the word ‘manga’ (Portuguese for ‘mango’) has become synonymous with education.
Nor is it surprising that the school was selected as the venue for the 35th anniversary celebrations. Beside the sculpture of Olindina Dantas, we along with approximately 2000 others, were treated to a day-long festival of food, music, and dancing. The staff proudly wore white T-Shirts with ‘Agrodan 35 Years’ printed on them – there was a real sense that they relished being part of the same team. Small growers flocked to pay their respects to Paulo, who is akin to a godfather in the region, and we mingled with commercial suppliers and logisticians, having quality discussions with friends old and new that just can’t be replicated over Zoom.
We could easily have stayed at the farm in Pernambuco for our whole trip (the generosity and kindness of the Dantas family was unparalleled) but Agrodan are not our only Brazilian supplier. We have several long-established relationships with growers across the country, such as Forever 5 who specialise in limes, ginger, grapes, and mangos. So we purposed to see as many producers as we could during our 10-day visit, which included our first visit to a lime plantation in Itajobi, roughly 5 hours from Sao Paulo..
Taking the time to establish and strengthen relationships is so vital to us. We understand the importance of working together and creating long-term, meaningful, and mutually beneficial relationships with our growers, suppliers, customers, and employees. If Covid has taught the world anything, it is that the value of human connection should be prioritised above all. This has been a cornerstone of our way of working for the past 50 years and it continues to be as we look ahead to the next 50 years.