Photo Courtesy of SISABAfter a shaky 2011 fiscal year, Portugal rallied its supporters from Mozambique to Macau for the 17th annual SISAB food and wine trade show held in Lisbon February 27-29. Hundreds of Portuguese suppliers and thousands of importers were in attendance at the annual trade fair — the largest Portuguese food and wine expo in existence. Prime Minister Pedro Passos opened the fair with exhortations: go and do business, and remember that Portugal’s new motto is excellence.
To other nations, excellence in agriculture might be a point of pride. For Portugal, it’s a necessity. The struggling economy counts wine as one of its major exports, and with recent IMF and EU scrutiny of Portugal’s financial situation, any major revenue source has been under pressure to deliver.
The undercurrent was palpable at SISAB, where Portuguese fishermen, winemakers, farmers, artisans and middlemen manned their booths with cheerful intensity, sampling their wares to importers from Vancouver, Hong Kong, New York, Brazil, and all over Europe and Africa. World-renowned names like Pernod and Sandeman set up flashy booths next to unknown co-ops from the Beira and other interior regions.
Delegations from Angola posed for press pictures, while tiny wine producers from the Dao courted larger distribution from U.S. and Canadian importers. The Azores, an island archipelago mostly known for tourism, showcased its diverse agricultural offering in a huge installation where guests could sample cheeses, meats, fish, wines and delicious liqueurs. Dinner on the 28th culminated with a traditional Fado show.
In addition to the Prime Minister, many of the nation’s other political luminaries were in attendance. Minister of Agriculture Assunç?o Cristas chaired lunch on the 28th, while Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas chaired the closing lunch. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), just as SISAB was wrapping its second day, the Wall Street Journal reported findings from EU and IMF officials that show Portugal is on track to meet financial targets in 2012.
Have the Western world’s jaded financial pundits ever considered a scenario where nations fight bankruptcy with codfish, green wines, blackberry liqueur and chocolate? As SISAB 2012 showed, in the absence of other natural resources, that’s a perfectly good place to start. Visit SISAB.org to learn more.