By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian government, soybean processing companies and non-governmental agencies renewed on Tuesday, November 25th, a moratorium pact whereby Brazil’s soybean industry and exporters agreed to refrain from purchasing the grain from areas in the Amazon region which have been cleared since June 2008, to be used for farming.
“The renewal of the basic principles of the moratorium is a relief for all those that in Brazil and abroad feared that the end of the pact would mean an increase in the deforestation of the largest tropical forest in the world,” said Paulo Adario, senior forest strategist for Greenpeace and the representative for NGOs at the signing event.
According to Brazil’s Environment Minister, Izabel Teixeira, the extension of the soybean moratorium until 2016 will give the government more time to conclude the rural environmental registry – a tool, she says will help in monitoring the deforestation rhythm in the Amazon region.
The soybean moratorium was first established in 2006 and was scheduled to end on December 31, 2014. According to the Environment Ministry, between 2007 and 2013 the average deforestation rate in the 73 municipalities included in the moratorium pact, in the states of Mato Grosso, Rondonia and Para, decreased 5.1 times.
The 73 municipalities in these three states are responsible for 98 percent of all soybean planted in the Amazon region. The total area occupied with soybean plantations in the Amazon biome, according to the Ministry, was of three million hectares last harvest season.
Nonetheless there are still those farmers who continue to illegally clear out land in the Amazon biome for farming. According to Teixeira the hike in soybean prices both in Brazil and abroad have led some producers to disregard the pact. According to the Ministry the area irregularly cleared and planted with soybean is responsible for 0.9 percent of the deforestation that occurred in the Amazon biome between 2007 and 2013.
For Greenpeace representative, Paulo Adario, the soybean moratorium had a ‘fundamental’ role in the reduction of deforestation in the Amazon Region. At the press conference held after the signing of the agreement, Sergio Mendes, general director at Anec (National Association of Cereal Exporters), noted that conscientious preservation of the environment has grown significantly in the past few years. “Today, in 2014, we are much more aware of climate issues than we were in 2006,” he stated.
And Brazil’s soybean moratorium agreement has not gone unnoticed abroad. International NGOs have highlighted the success of the moratorium as a tool to prevent unsupervised and unsustainable deforestation. According to UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), a science-based non-profit environmental organization the soybean moratorium is one of the main reasons for the reduction of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon region in the past few years.
“Over the past several years, the soybean industry has actually done very well—without deforesting the Amazon—by increasing yields and through multiple cropping (more harvests per year),” stated the entity in its 2014 report ‘Deforestation Success Stories’.
Tuesday’s moratorium pact renewal was signed by Minister Teixeira, Adario and representatives of Anec and Abiove (Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oils Industries).