Acai, from its collection in palm trees in the Amazon regions to the table of its consumer, brings with it a journey of countless people and paths traveled.
A small, rounded and dark colored fruit that when felled from the palm is an example of how a region can generate income and be sustainable through something that the forest provides for the community.
The acaizais arranged on the banks of rivers and streams serve as a feast for the birds that pass by and, just after dawn, it is time for the “peconheiros” to do their work. Acai collectors are called “peconheiros” due to the “peconha”, a traditional accessory used in climbing to the top of the palm trees. With the pecan tied to the foot, gloves and his machete, the curls are collected and, on the ground, they are threshed and placed in the shallows. There is not much security, but it is the best way to harvest. The palm trees are only felled when they run out of production, which occurs in about 10 years. Its trunk turns into heart of palm, fertilizer and material for handicrafts.
When it arrives at the factory, a visual, temperature visit is carried out, it is checked if the products are damaged, according to the product's properties, packaging and transport cleanliness. After that, the product is processed, selected and separated, cleaned with chlorinated water, rinsed, and cooled in the cold chamber. All of this is done with respect for unit operations and the cleaning of equipment for quality assurance.
After the harvest process, the acai can have two destinations: medium and large industries, which buy directly from the producer, making the necessary process for using the fruit as food, cosmetics, distribution in Brazil or export. Or commercialization to the local consumer in the region, being transported by boats for sale in ports or sold to middlemen who negotiate the product according to demand. Many of the sales are still aimed at traditional food markets in the region of Belem, markets that operate during the night and values vary according to a “stock exchange” due to supply and demand, as well as in free markets.
In addition to “peconhas” and sellers, we also have baggers, who put the fruits in bags, such as coffee. Porters carry the bags in their wooden carts and also the people who take the rasas and cans back to the boats. And for everything to work, there are also food vendors, who are essential to feed workers where the average is 500 people working in a fair area, the most famous in Belem.
There are approximately 4,000 acaí beaters in Belem, and they are responsible for putting the fruits in sauce, cleaning them, preparing and transforming them into pulps or wines, which can be found in different consistencies, such as thick, medium and diluted. Unlike the mode of consumption in the rest of the country, Acai is consumed by the community fresh and beaten on the day. It is eaten salty, along with beans, flour, rice and fish. It is like the traditional hot bread for breakfast, being the main source of income for 70% of the riverside population.