October 30, 2012

Only 0.4% of Brazil Soybeans Grown on Illegally Deforested Land

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

Since 2006, there has been a concerted effort put forth in Brazil to prohibit the illegal clearing of Amazon Rainforest for the production of soybeans. The program has proven successful with only 0.4% of the Amazon Rainforest that has been cleared illegally since 2006 being put into soybean production. The vast majority of the cleared land in the Amazon region has been converted to pastureland for the purpose of grazing cattle.

In 2006, the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove) and the National Grain Exporters Association (Anec) along with their associated organizations, joined together with the Brazilian government to implement a program with the goal of preventing illegal deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest in order to produce soybeans. They accomplished that goal by prohibiting the sale or purchase of any soybeans produced on land that was illegally deforested since 2006. Joining in the moratorium on the purchase of illegally grown soybeans are 24 of the principal companies responsible for the commercialization of 90% of Brazil's soybeans.

The original moratorium, which was put in place in 2006, was to last for two years, but due to the success of the program, it has been renewed several times since then and it has now been renewed once again until January 31st of 2014

A key component of the moratorium has been the monitoring of deforestation by the Brazilian Space Institute (Inpe) via satellite imagery. Since 2006, Inpe has been identifying soybeans growing on illegally cleared land. Technicians from Inpe subsequently conducted ground verification for the presence of soybeans growing in the identified areas. Once confirmed, the landowners were then prohibited from selling their soybeans to any participating organization.

Their efforts suffered a small setback during the 2011/13 growing season when 18,400 hectares of illegal grown soybeans were identified compared to 11,700 hectares during the 2010/11 growing season. While this is a reversal of the recent trend, illegally grown soybeans represents only a very small fraction of the total soybean production in Brazil.

During the period of 2006-2011, Inpe has identified that there were 4,510,000 hectares of Amazon Rainforest that had been cleared with 77% of the clearing (3,470,000 hectares) occurring in the three states of Mato Grosso, Para, and Rondonia. Fifty eight municipalities in those three states were responsible for 98% of all the illegally planted soybeans.

In 2011, Brazilian farmers planted 25 million hectares of soybeans and 2.1 million hectors were planted in what is technically known as the Amazon Biome. Virtually all these soybeans were planted on land that had been cleared before the moratorium too effect in 2006.