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December 6, 2018

Deforestation in Mato Grosso increased for Second Consecutive Year

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The National Institute of Space Studies (Inpe) reported a disturbing increase in the rate of deforestation in the state of Mato Grosso for the last two consecutive years. Inpe's satellite studies indicated that between August of 2017 and July of 2018, there were 1,749 square kilometers cleared in the state (432,000 acres), which represented an increase of 12% compared to the 1,561 square kilometers (385,500 acres) cleared between August of 2016 and July of 2017.

The clearing in Mato Grosso represented 22% of all the land cleared this past year in the Lowland Amazon Region. Only the state of Para registered more land clearing during the period at 2,840 square kilometers (701,500 acres). In all of Brazil, there were 7,900 square kilometers cleared between August of last year and July of this year (1,951,300 acres). This represents an increase of 13% compared to the year before when 6,947 square kilometers were cleared (1,715,900 acres).

Inpe indicated that over the last 30 years, from 1988 to 2018, there have been 144,716 square kilometers of land cleared in the state of Mato Grosso (35,744,800 acres). Most of that land was in the form of cerrado vegetation which is a grassy savanna interspersed with low growing trees and shrubs. Most of that cerrado vegetation was cleared for cattle ranching and crop production.

Most of the new land being brought into crop production in the state is from the conversion of degraded pastures into crop production. These are pastures that are very low in fertility with a low level of productivity. The conversion of degraded pastures has been pushed by the Brazilian government and research agencies as a way to make better use of existing land and to reduce the pressure for more deforestation.

The increased clearing over the last two years reversed a declining trend of recent years. The Brazilian government established a system of satalite monitoring to track deforestation and they instituted tougher laws and penalties for infractions. The result of those programs had been a steady decline in the rate of deforestation. Unfortunately, funding for the agencies responsible for enforcing the regulations has been reduced over the last few years.

There are concerns that deforestation rates will continue to increase under a Bolsonaro administration. Jair Bolsonaro, who will be sworn in as Brazil's new president on January 1st, has been a vocal critic of environmental regulations limiting land use and the establishment of new conservation areas or indigenous reserves.