Though Brazil has just come out of its gravest recession on record, one surprising industry is faring considerably better than most: cheese producers. According to the Brazilian Association of the Cheese Industry (Abiq), production will rise 2.5 percent in 2018, and while the growth rate is not reaching pre-crisis rates of 10 percent a year, the feeling is that things are better for cheesemakers than for the majority of sectors. On average, Brazilians consume 5.5 kilograms of cheese each year, so there is potential for growth – for the sake of comparison, Argentinians eat 11.5 kilograms of the stuff every year.
However, in order to stimulate the cheese market to grow even more, one initiative has shown potential to help boost recovery. Earlier this year, the Research Network on Brazilian Craft Cheeses (Repequab) was created by The Food Research Center at the University of São Paulo. The objective of the research network is to integrate Brazilian researchers who work in the area of artisanal cheeses in order to establish partnerships and facilitate the exchange of information and human resources for the strengthening of the Brazilian cheese industry.
The general objectives of REPEQUAB, according to Gustavo Augusto Lacorte, biologist and a member of the network, are to integrate the various studies on craft cheese which are being developed independently across Brazil, as well as to improve the dialogue between these researchers and the productive sector. This integration between researchers and the productive sector, he believes, will allow for the mapping of the demands of the parts of the industry which still lack research. It will also avoid overlapping and overly similar studies from being carried out and promote the exchange of students between partner institutions, favoring collaborative research.