Bloomberg Línea — Having been canceled since 2020 because of the pandemic, Agrishow, the largest agricultural and livestock fair in Latin America, opened this week in the grounds of the Agronomy Institute in Ribeirão Preto, in São Paulo state.
The fair’s partners are the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (ABAG),the Brazilian Association of Machinery and Equipment (ABIMAG), the National Association for Fertilizer Distribution, the Agriculture and Livestock Federation of the State of São Paulo, and the Brazilian Rural Society (SRB).
But the fair has not always been such a big-name, or successful event.
Bloomberg Línea talked to some of the people involved in the creation and implementation of Agrishow, but who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Agrishow is a child that worked out, and everybody wants to be the father of a child like that,” said one of the sources.
Agrishow has been held under that name since 1994, but the project for the implementation of an agricultural technology fair in Brazil was born three years earlier, in 1991, dreamed up by Brasílio de Araújo Neto, and was called the ‘Dynamic Fair’.
A farmer and president of the Rural Society of Paraná, Araújo Neto presented a project along the lines of the Farm Progress Show, an agricultural technology fair that has been held in the United States since 1953, to the Organization of Cooperatives of Brazil.
His idea of taking the fair to the OCB was because of his interest in the cooperative’s involvement in the project. However, it was recommended that he present the idea to Pedro de Camargo Neto, who had assumed the presidency of the Brazilian Rural Society in 1990.
The First Partner
At the time, Camargo Neto and Brasílio came to a gentlemen’s agreement, but without a formal commitment to financial support. Even so, Brasílio organized the first edition of the Dynamic Fair on his own in 1992, in Paraná, on his own farm. However, the result was far from what he had expected.
The organizers did not manage to attract a large public, the sponsorships obtained were not enough to cover the expenses, and the fair closed its first edition with losses.
A new attempt was made the following year, this time in Uberaba. Even with the losses of the first edition, Brasílio sought the support of the Brazilian Association of Zebu Breeders (ABCZ) for the organization of the event. One of the most traditional farming associations in Brazil, the ABCZ has organized ExpoZebu since 1935.
But without the shows and entertainment activities, already traditional in the Uberaba livestock fair, the second edition of the Dynamic Fair was, once again, a failure.
Even so, 1993 would be a fundamental year for Agrishow, even with the second consecutive failure.
The second edition of the fair, in Uberaba, was visited by the then new president of the SRB, Roberto Rodrigues. Then director of Tatu Marchesan, Francisco Matturro, was also in Minas Gerais to visit the event. That same year, Ney Bittencourt de Araújo founded ABAG as part of the SRB, and became its first president.
Flying the Flag for the Sector
The launch of ABAG in April 1993 was fundamental for Agrishow to take place in 1994. The fair started to be used as the entity’s flagship, a place where rural producers would have access to the various technologies presented by companies, and bringing together diverse links in the production chain, which has always been ABAG’s mission.
In August 1993, Roberto Rodrigues became secretary of agriculture of the State of São Paulo, under Luiz Antônio Fleury Filho, the then governor of São Paulo state. With no budget, but still excited about what he had seen months before in Uberaba, Rodrigues began working to find a place to install the fair in São Paulo.
The most suitable place was the experimental farm of the Campinas Agronomy Institute, in Ribeirão Preto, where the event still takes place today. The choice of the city was based on the logistics and hotel infrastructure already in place, with an airport, highways and local roads capable of hosting the event.
Once the location was defined, it was necessary to involve the city government. However, at the time, the mayor was Antonio Palocci, from the Workers’ Party, and a political rival of then governor Fleury. The meeting of the former state secretary of agriculture Roberto Rodrigues and the then mayor took place secretly, without the governor’s knowledge, with a local businessman as an intermediary.
Years later, Palocci was one of those responsible for taking Rodrigues to the Ministry of Agriculture, in the first administration of former president Lula.
With the involvement of the city hall settled and the fair’s location defined, ABAG, SRB and Rural do Paraná, decided to involve representatives from other parts of the agribusiness chain. Together with the three entities, the Association of Agricultural Engineers of São Paulo and the National Association for Plant Defense, a promoter of pesticides, joined the project and formed a management team led by ABAG.
As a first step, the team decided to change the name of the event from Dynamic Fair to Agrishow.
On May 4, 1994, Agrishow opened its doors for the first time under the new name and with the new management. In the first edition, a little more than 60 companies exhibited their product launches to an audience of approximately 10,000 visitors, reversing two consecutive years of losses for what was, at the time, considered a success, and which even generated a profit for its organizers.
Optimistic with the results, the organizers started preparing the second edition of the fair. However, Bittencourt, who was still president of ABAG and owner of Agroceres Sementes, began to have difficulties with his personal business and diverted his attention to the company. In 1997, Agroceres would be sold to Monsanto.
Agrishow 1995, after the success of the previous year, suffered huge losses and almost went out of business. It was later revealed that a misappropriation of financial resources had contributed to the negative results of that year.
The Arrival of a New Partner
With the risk of not being able to hold a third edition, Agrishow only survived due to the arrival of a new partner, Sérgio Magalhães, then president of the Brazilian Association of Machinery and Equipment, who showed an interest in taking control of the fair, which included all the burdens and debts from 1995.
However, some changes occurred for the 1996 edition.
There were desertions from the fair’s board, and ABIMAG kept 80% of the capital of the event, with the other 20% divided equally between ABAG, ANDA and SRB. Agrishow 1996 took place with the new composition, with the sponsorship of Banco do Brasil and the Ministry of Agriculture, which each invested 500,000 reais ($100,708) in the event. The fair was again a success, and ABIMAG, which is often seen as the creator of Agrishow, was in fact its savior.
This formation lasted for 19 years, with Agrishow growing year after year, following the typical ups and downs of agribusiness. In 2014, however, a fifth partner joined the fair. That year, ABAG sold 10% of its participation for 4 million reais to the Federation of Agriculture and Livestock of the State of São Paulo (FAESP).
Since then, the show has been run by ABAG, ABIMAG, ANDA, FAESP and SRB, and it has become the largest agricultural and livestock fair in Latin America and the second largest in the world, only second to the Farm Progress Show in the U.S., and which was the main reference for the creation of the Brazilian event.
An In-Person Fair Again
Closed to the public since 2020 because of the pandemic, Agrishow opened to the public again in 2022.
The expectation is that the business generated during the fair will surpass the results of the 2019 edition, when 2.9 billion reais ($584.3 million) in products were traded.
“It is not possible to estimate this year’s business volume precisely, but the expectations are very good. Within a radius of 100km from Ribeirão Preto, there are no more hotel rooms available,” Francisco Matturro, the same man who went to Uberaba in 1990 and is now the president of Agrishow, said in March.