Brazilian soy exports are linked to farms where illegal deforestation has taken place according to new analysis which found that as much as 20% of soy cultivation in Brazil’s largest soy-producing state was linked to illegal deforestation.
The analysis, carried out by Trase in partnership with Brazilian NGOs ICV and Imaflora, looked at levels of illegal deforestation on soy farms in Mato Grosso between 2012 and 2017 and found that over a quarter of the land that had been illegally cleared was on soy farms.
In total, the researchers identified 1.6 million hectares of illegal deforestation in Mato Grosso, an area of forest twice the size of London. Just 3% of this area was cleared legally.
They found that more than 80% of the soy produced on farms where illegal deforestation had taken place was likely to have been sold for export, with China, the European Union (EU) and Thailand the biggest export markets.
But the problem was limited to a relatively small number of farms, with 80% of illegal deforestation on soy farms identified on just 400 farms – just 2% of the total number of soy farms in the state.
China is the biggest export market for soy produced in Mato Grosso, importing almost half of the soy produced (approximately 11 million tonnes in 2018). A fifth of these imports were likely to have come from farms where illegal deforestation had taken place – trade worth some US$ 920 million.
EU countries were estimated to have imported 3.9 million tonnes in 2018, with almost a fifth of this likely to have come from farms where illegal deforestation had taken place. Most of this soy is imported for use as animal feed.
Trase researcher and report lead author André Vasconcelos said:
“We found worrying levels of illegal deforestation on soy farms in Mato Grosso, and a significant amount of that soy was likely to have been imported into Europe and China.
“But the problem appears to be limited to just a small number of farms, and could be easily addressed. Soy buyers and importers could send a strong signal to the Brazilian soy industry that illegal deforestation is unacceptable. It is crucial to check the legal compliance of their suppliers.”
Soy has long been recognised as a key driver of deforestation, but there had been little evidence until now showing the links between soy production and illegal deforestation.
Paula Bernasconi, ICV coordinator, commented:
“Despite crucial improvements in transparency and a recently implemented new deforestation alert system in Mato Grosso, deforestation continues to increase in 2020, showing the need for combined actions with deeper supply chain involvement to eliminate illegal deforestation. In the case of soy, the advantage is that the problem is highly concentrated, making it easier for markets to act.”
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