Coastal International Logistics has been shipping 50 container loads of window glass a week to the Brazilian port of Santos.
But Chris Hood, a co-founder of the Jacksonville-based international freight forwarding and logistics company, wouldn’t call Brazil an easy market.
With a population of nearly 200 million and a large and diversified economy, Brazil is a country that many international companies want to do business with despite its tariffs and cascading taxes, complicated legal and customs system, and tangle of regulations.
“We’re seeing an 18 to 20 percent increase in Brazilian business per year,’’ said Hood, whose company also operates warehousing facilities at the Miami Free Zone. And he sees no reason that pace will slow in 2013.
From January through November 2012 — the latest figures available — $15.16 billion worth of trade with Brazil flowed through airports and seaports in the Miami Customs District, which stretches from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys. That made Brazil the Miami district’s top trading partner by a wide margin.
Brazil, in fact, is an interesting enough market that José Garcia, chief executive of Vertilux, a Doral company that sells the components needed to fabricate window coverings, would recommend it to anyone who wants to export to Latin America. “In 2013, we expect to triple sales in Brazil,’’ he said.
But he is also well aware of what exporters call the custo Brasil — or high cost of doing business with Brazil.
It might cost $50,000 to get a container filled with $100,000 worth of merchandise through customs and into Brazil after adding in the cost of duties and various taxes, he said. Mitigating the cost somewhat is that a value-added-tax is refunded once the merchandise is sold, Garcia said.
“What you put up front in Colombia is about half of what’s needed in Brazil,’’ Garcia said.
“There are barriers to export [to Brazil] — no doubt,’’ said Victor Mora, managing director of global operations for Lennox International, a Texas-based heating, air conditioning and refrigeration company whose Latin American operations are based in the Miami Free Zone. “If you don’t have a factory, it’s very difficult to participate in the Brazilian market.’’ Lennox has a factory that makes refrigeration equipment in São José dos Campo, Brazil.
Other international business executives talk about the importance of having a local partner or a Portuguese-speaking employee to successfully enter the Brazilian market.
Personal relationships also pay dividends in difficult markets such as Venezuela whose political future is murky with socialist President Hugo Chávez recuperating from cancer in a Cuban hospital and unable to be sworn in for a new six-year term.
“We know it’s risky to sell in Venezuela but we have known our customers there for many years,” said Mora. “We get paid although payments are slow.’’
To lessen risk, Hood said Coastal’s CIL Forwarding branch only does port deliveries in Venezuela, rather than door-to-door service.
But he still lists Venezuela as Coastal’s third most promising market for 2013.
Venezuela was the Miami Customs District’s fifth most important trading partner last year.