Ask anyone what comes to mind when they think of Brazil and they will probably tell you it’s Pelé, the footballer, or carnival.
So it may come as some surprise to learn that up to 80 per cent of costumes worn during Brazil’s festival have actually been imported, almost exclusively from China.
Others may just be surprised that it is worth shipping the skimpy outfits they see on television, some of which are barely more than a string of sequins, thousands of miles.
But for those familiar with Brazil’s textile industry, this is not news. It has been suffering for years, both as a result of internal problems and external pressures. The sector is comprised of a small number of companies, which have failed to keep up with booming demand from the country’s ever-richer consumers. The government has made things more difficult through a lack of investment. And, to top it off, the rapid appreciation of Brazil’s currency means that it makes more sense for retailers or distributors to get what they need from abroad.
The government worries about trying to control the exchange rate, but the bigger picture is that Brazilian companies need to concentrate on producing high-value goods rather than cheap stuff.
But the party must go on and, for the next few carnivals at least, it looks like China is going to steal the show.