Brazil's soy production alarms environmentalists over deforestation

Over the past two decades, Brazil has turned into a commodity-exporting powerhouse, producing an estimated 90 million metric tons of soybeans this year.

Brazil's soy production alarms environmentalists over deforestation

World Bulletin / News Desk

Brazil will just overtake the USA as the world’s top soy producer this year, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff announced this week. The news comes just days after it was announced that Brazil’s ‘Soy Moratorium,’ an agreement that bans the sale or purchase of soy produced in newly-deforested areas of the Amazon, would be renewed for only one more year.

Now, some environmentalists are worried that the end of the moratorium on December 31 2014 will lead to an increase in forest clearing for soy production.

Over the past two decades, Brazil has turned into a commodity-exporting powerhouse, producing an estimated 90 million metric tons of soybeans this year.

U.S. production for the 2013-14 harvest, meanwhile, is estimated at 89.51 million metric tons.

President Rousseff made the announcement about the record tons of soybeans this year as she toured Mato Grosso this week, a western state that has become the cash-crop heart of Brazil’s agricultural revolution.

Brazilian soy producers, the government, environmental organizations and international companies including giants such as McDonalds and Cargill agreed to the moratorium in 2006 in the wake of the highest levels of deforestation in a decade.

High global prices for soy and beef had been drawing soy producers into some of the most pristine and isolated areas of the rainforest.

In 2004, Brazil’s national space agency, INPE, which uses satellite imagery to track forest clearing, reported 27,423 square kilometers of the Amazon had been destroyed – an area larger than Israel. Since its launch, the moratorium has been widely declared a success.

“According to trade groups [the moratorium] isn’t necessary any more, but in 2013 we saw an increase in deforestation for the first time since 2008,” said Romulo Batista of Greenpeace.

Soy cannot be immediately planted after land is deforested, says Batista, as it takes three or four years to prepare forest soil for farming, by burning it, removing tree roots and treating it with chemicals.

“Until we monitor it for some years we can’t say with certainty, but it looks like this [newly-deforested] land will be used for agriculture.” Batista added that a steady increase in the price of agricultural commodities, and the construction of a highway through the Amazon, was likely to drive the opening of more land. 

Last Mod: 14 Şubat 2014, 10:55
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