Brazilian footwear firms are stepping up their export efforts as part of a BRL41.4m (US$15.7m) programme over the next two years to target new customers in the US, Mexico, Colombia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, China and Russia.

The move comes after a renewed agreement was signed last month by the Brazilian shoe association (Abicalçados) and Brazilian export and investment promotion organisation (Apex-Brasil). The Brazilian Footwear Programme will receive BRL28.5m from the government affiliated agency and BRL12.9m from Abicalçados.

The partnership with Apex-Brasil has been running since 2000, and has helped manufacturers expand from private label production to their own proprietary brands, which are sold in some 150 countries.

"The project has made it possible for Brazilian companies to become exporters. They have become protagonists in the process by creating added value for their products and establishing their brands on international markets," says Heitor Klein, executive chairman of Abicalçados.

Among the initiatives being rolled out for the 2015/2016 period are a product development portal to enable companies to exchange information, marketing and design courses in partnership with ESPM-Sul and the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), visits by international buyers, virtual exhibition rooms and pop-up showrooms.