It’s not because one’s the grandson of an entrepreneur that one’s life is always facilitated, and Miguel Faria is testimony to this reality. The omnipresent figure of his grandfather, the Honourable Vasco Faria, today with 83 years, reminds him of the height of the sights that must correspond to the responsibility assigned to him: to take the management of the food business FOCOR group, born of the hobbie of the grandfather who liked to acquire farms. The hobby born a new business area, in 2014, worth 8 million euros.
“My grandfather had and still has an extraordinary vision of business, with an ability to anticipate which seems to me innate. It’s not easy to live up to him, but I will try”, admits the 32 years old, with two degrees, one in auto engineering from England, and another in marketing management from Portugal.
For training, the first thing he did when challenged to take care of the four farms and four estates that the grandfather was “collecting” was dealing with the marketing of wine, grapes and olive oil produced between Minho and Alentejo. “Before, we’d sell the wine with a label pasted on the bottle, blank boxes, it didn’t matter. It was believed that if the product was good, it’d sell well. Now it is not so, the competition is fierce and it costs a lot to create a brand”, explains the agroalimentary sector group administrator whose main activity are the textile dyes, which obtained last year a global billing of 23 million euros.
The most valuable brands of the food business correspond to the vinho verde (Encosta do Xisto) and Alentejo wine (Vale Barqueiros), the latter being about to brand gourmet olive oil. Olive oil is, in fact, the production which occupies the largest area (1,100 acres), while the wine (240 acres) yields more notoriety for the brands.
“If we talk of the retail business, agriculture, today, it is more a matter of the market than the product, even if we’re not in the market for the price war but by the quality”, explains Miguel Faria. Still, in olive oil that’s sold in bulk “for the largest market players”, the manager ensures that you can’t complain about the prices.
“We have doubled the prices from year to year and that’s why we have postponed the launch of our own brand”, he said. But the Manager ends up confessing that there is a strategy behind this “miracle of multiplying” prices: “we are always keeping an eye on harvests of the Spaniards and the share price of olive oil and only release ours when they don’t have oil and the price goes up,” explains Miguel Faria.
Last year, 720 tonnes of oil were produced, of which 50% was exported to Spain and Italy. In the case of wines, out of a total of 520 thousand litres, the majority (66%) stays in the domestic market and the remainder is exported to Brazil, Canada, Luxembourg, Denmark, Lithuania and Switzerland. At the same time, 1500 tons of grapes are sold to other producers, “a business that, although traditional, increasingly includes research and innovation.
“We have, since the time of my grandfather, a partnership with the University of Caceres that allowed us, at a time when the country was long overdue in agriculture, in the early 1980s, to be the first to have drip irrigation. Now, we’re testing a new technique of planting olive trees”, said the Manager.
“Portugal lacks true managers in agriculture. What I realized at the last fair in Dusseldorf, is that we can be unstoppable in the price-quality, but we can’t be cheap enough, nor good enough” he finishes, with a confession: “I never thought I’d work in agriculture, they asked me to try it and I liked it. It has to be like this, you have to have a passion and the ability to cope with unforeseen circumstances”.