PARIS -- The organizers of SIAL Mercosur -- the international food exhibition for the six-nation, South American trade group -- told SN that this year's edition will take up less space but attract as many exhibitors and perhaps a slightly higher number of visitors as the previous show two years ago.
Mercosur SIAL is scheduled to be held Aug. 21 to 24 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The show serves the member nations of Mercosur -- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay -- the third largest international trade block after the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to the show's organizers.
In a phone interview with SN from his office here, Gilles Vaucelle, president, Exposium Latina America, the trade show's organizer, said the show expects roughly the same number of exhibitors, but with most taking less exhibit space.
He cited the official U.S. pavilion, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as an example. Two years ago, Vaucelle said, the U.S. pavilion occupied about 5,700 square feet of exhibit space, while this year it will take up only 3,850 square feet.
"It will be about the same with France, Spain and Italy," Vaucelle said. "And the big companies are taking less than half the space they took in '99."
In all, Vaucelle said this year's show will use 70,000 square feet of exhibition space, as compared with the previous show's 85,000 square feet.
He attributed the decline in the amount of exhibit space in this year's event to international concern about the Latin American economy.
"North American and European companies are not too eager to go to Latin America at present," he said. "It has taken a strong effort on our part to convince these customers to be present. Many of them don't understand that this part of the world is accustomed to cloudy skies that clear up quickly. One year the inflation rate is 6%, while the next it's -2%."
However, as in 1999, the show will have approximately 700 exhibitors from 35 countries, he added. Also, the show's attendance could reach 22,000, an increase from the 20,500 who attended two years ago, he noted. And the event expects 20% to 22% of these attendees to come from outside Argentina, roughly the same proportion of foreign visitors the show attracted in 1999.
What's more, Vaucelle pointed out, SIAL Mercosur will be the scene of more than 2,000 private meetings between companies from Latin America and those from North America and Europe. "These meetings are not only occasions for buyers and sellers to make deals but also for companies to develop new relationships," he said.
Seminars at the show will be "dedicated to fashionable subjects," according to Vaucelle, including food safety ("an important problem that has been overplayed by the media") and organic food.
For the next SIAL Mercosur, scheduled in Buenos Aires in 2003, Vaucelle said, "The possibilities are big. I hope at that time Argentina and the region have returned to their previous prosperity."