Demand rising among major foreign universities for information on Brazilian sugarcane industry
|Students from the MBA program at the University of Texas
From the beginning of 2012 to the middle of April, thirteen groups of students from various nationalities have visited the headquarters of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, in Sao Paulo to get detailed information about the history, current status and future prospects of the sugarcane industry. It's a type of demand that has been experiencing significant growth, as the latest such visit on April 17th, by students from the MBA program at the University of Texas in Houston and Dallas illustrates.
“The students spent a full semester learning about Brazil and they had to choose one area of industry to explore business opportunities and develop a report. Both MBA programs chose the biofuels industry,” explained Janet Dukerich, coordinator of the MBA program at the university.
The group of 60 students was hosted at UNICA by Institutional Affairs Coordinator Luana Maia, who conducted a presentation highlighting domestic challenges being faced by the sugarcane industry, biofuels development programs around the world and sustainability initiatives involving ethanol production in Brazil. She also detailed steps to improve sustainable practices, including the Green Protocol signed in 2007 between the State Government of São Paulo and the sugarcane industry.
The National Commitment of Brasília, designed to enhance labour practices beyond current legislative requirements and the RenovAção Project, aimed at retraining workers displaced by the advance of mechanized harvesting were also covered in the presentation. Ongoing discussions involving public policies that affect biofuels, such as new regulations proposed by the National Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP in English), were also discussed.
Visits to UNICA
Other universities that sent groups of students to UNICA headquarters this year include Johns Hopkins and Georgetown from the United States, the University of Vienna, Austria, the University of Queensland, in Australia and the London School of Economics, in the United Kingdom, among others.
|“Interest in the development and the future of the cane industry is visible, given the number of student groups we've seen not only this year but in previous years. All of these groups are interested in a wide range of topics, from the way technology is evolving to the expanding number of new sugarcane-based products," explained Maia. On average, university groups number about 20 students, she added.
Themes of the students: Amazon, land use and biofuels program (Photo: UNICA)
Environmental issues are frequently raised during student visits as well. Questions related to the Amazon Rainforest, land use and the decades-old success of the Brazilian biofuels program are often high on the agenda.
“Usually, they want to know if there are sugarcane plantations in sensitive biomes and how the industry is planning to expand without causing any harm to these areas. The use of ethanol blended with gasoline is another subject of many discussions and interest,” Maia pointed out. “There are also those who ask how ethanol might be affected if electric cars eventually become more efficient and available at accessible prices,” she added.
In 2011, UNICA welcomed 160 international delegations from 45 different countries. Thirty of those delegations were composed of students, usually from graduate and post-graduate programs. “From what we've seen so far, the number of student groups is very likely to grow significantly in 2012," Maia concluded.