By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil is betting Asia's rapidly growing middle class will help it capture one tenth of the global food market in five years by expanding its exports beyond soy, sugar and coffee, the country's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said on Tuesday.
Maggi, a billionaire soy farmer, said Brazil will focus on increasing sales of beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy and other products to a region with half the world's population and a middle class that will grow to 3.2 billion people by 2030.
"There's money on the table and it is being distributed to many. When people earn better they focus first on buying more food, and Brazil has to get into that market," he told a news conference after a trip to China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
Brazil currently has 6.9 percent of the global food market. It is the world's top exporter of soy, orange juice, beef, coffee and chicken, and has become second largest exporter of corn. It has huge potential to expand food production in a sustainable way, he said.
Economic growth in Brazil is contracting sharply for the second year running, as the country struggles to shake off its worst recession in eighty years. Farming is one of the few areas that is still growing, which Maggi hopes will lead a recovery.
South Korea announced it would open its market to Brazilian pork during Maggi's visit, Vietnam has reopened its market to Brazil's pork, beef and chicken pending inspection of processing plants, and Brasilia is waiting for China to approve several beef packing units to expand sales.
Brazil has a very small piece of India's food market and Maggi said he argued for preferential trade terms for Brazilian farm exports at a meeting in China of the BRICS group of emerging market nations.
Brazil plans to boost production of lentils with an eye to entering the Indian market where they are a staple. Maggi signed a 1-billion-real ($310 mln) deal with Indian agrichemicals firm UPL Ltd (UPLL.NS) to build a plant in Brazil.
Maggi said Brazilian businessmen who travelled with him to Asia landed potential deals worth up to $2 billion.
Deputy minister Eumar Novacki will travel to Russia next week to expand beef sales. Russia wants to sell Brazil wheat.
He then goes to Japan next week for talks to open up exports of processed and fresh beef. Japan wants access to the Brazilian market for its pricey Wagyu beef, Maggi said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Reese Ewing and Diane Craft)