Study addresses production and exportation of soy and the Brazilian savannah



17 Julho 2012  | 
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Brasilia (DF) – A WWF-Brazil survey of official Federal Government data shows that seven out of ten countries worldwide purchased Brazilian soy or soy derivatives in the period from 2001 to 2010. The main exports are bulk grain soy, soy meal and soy oil.

China, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, Thailand, Italy, Iran, the United Kingdom and South Korea purchased eight out of every ten kilos of soy exports over the same decade. Together they disbursed US$ 89 billion to acquire 301 million tons in that period.

Production of this oil-bearing species in the Cerrado savannahs increased steadily from 2001 to 2010 especially in areas of the states of Maranhao, Piaui, Bahia, Goias, Tocantins, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The crop advanced into newly deforested areas or former areas of grazing land.

Brazil is the main supplier of soy to China and one of the world’s leading soy exporters. The product is one of the main items in Brazil’s balance of trade. Crop productivity has greatly improved largely due to private and public investments.

Production has leaped up from 12 million tons a year in the 1970s to current levels of around 60 million tons a year and the area under soy has expanded from 6.9 million hectares to 21.5 million hectares. By 2020 the crop is expected to occupy 30 million hectares and the focus of expansion, is, as always into ‘cheap land’ in the Cerrado savannahs.

In the coming decade exports may get up to 41 million tons a year. An increase of 12 million tons a tear on the export figures for 2010/11. Over 40% of the soy grain, half of the soy meal and a third of the soy oil produced in Brazil are for exportation.

One good way recommended by WWF-Brazil to reduce the socio-environmental impacts stemming from soy production is a form of certification along the lines of the existing Round Table for Responsible Soy, the RTRS. At the moment 78 thousand hectares are planted under RTRS rules on farms in the states of Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Goias.

“If Brazil is to carry on placing its bets on commodities then let it do so using sustainable production patterns. RTRS production criteria were jointly defined by soy producers, the industry and civil society”, commented WWF-Brazil’s Agriculture Programme coordinator, Cassio Franco Moreira.

At the end of last year, Netherlands retailers, traders and industries announced they would be initially investing  € 7 million to guarantee that, by 2015, 100% of soy used in the production of meat, eggs, dairy products and other food products in the Netherlands would be responsible soy. The country is the second largest purchaser of Brazilian soy products right behind China.

The Cerrado savannah is the second largest natural vegetation formation on the South American continent surpassed only by the Amazon. It is an important source of water and the habitat of 5% of all living species on the planet. Half of the original vegetation has already disappeared and losses continue at the rate 6.5 thousand square kilometres a year.

“The Cerrado has already paid a very high price to benefit economic models that are hardly sustainable at all. It is in urgent need of having its ecological worth recognised and more highly valued by expanding protected areas and introducing good agricultural practices”, declared WWF-Brazil’s Cerrado-Pantanal Programme coordinator, Michael Becker.
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A landscape of the preserved Cerrado
© WWF-Brasil / Eduardo Aigner Enlarge
Soybean growing in a plateau at Minas Gerais state
© WWF-Brasil / Eduardo Aigner Enlarge

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