Back
May 2, 2018

Only 1.2% of Deforestation in Amazon Region due to Soy Production

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

The Brazilian Soybean Working Group (GTS), released a study earlier this year that indicated that over the past 11 years only 1.2% of the deforestation in the Lowland Amazon Region could be attributed to grain production. The Soybean Working Group was formed in 2006 and it is composed of grain producers, industry representatives, government officials, and environmental groups.

The program developed by the Soybean Working Group is often called the Soybean Moratorium. The agreement to limit soybean production in the Lowland Amazon Region was reached in 2006 when the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove), the National Grain Exporters Association (Anec), government officials, and producers declared they would not purchase or finance any grain production from areas illegally deforested in the Lowland Amazon Region after June of 2006.

The Soybean Moratorium covers 89 municipalities in seven states including: Mato Grosso, Para, Rondonia, Roraima, Amapa, Maranhao, and Tocantins. In addition to Abiove and Anec, the Soybean Working Group works with Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and others agencies to monitor the success of the program.

One of those other agencies is the Brazilian National Space Research Institute (Inpe) which reported that only about 5% of the area deforested in those 89 municipalities was associated with grain production and that most of the new grain production occurred in areas that were converted from degraded pastures to grain production or were in areas cleared prior to 2008. The other 95% of the deforestation was associated with primarily cattle ranching and other causes.

In the monitored municipalities, the deforestation declined from 6,847 square kilometers per year (1,691,000 acres per year) during the period from 2002 to 2008 to 1,049 square kilometers per year from the period of 2009 to 2016 (259,000 acres per year), or a reduction of 85%.

Less than 2% of the expansion of soybean acreage in Brazil after July of 2008 was in deforested areas of the Lowland Amazon Region. During the 2016/17 growing season, the Soybean Working Group could identify only 47,365 hectares (117,000 acres) of soybean production that was not in accordance with the Soybean Moratorium.

Approximately 54% of Brazil's soybeans are produced in the cerrado areas of central Brazil that has been heavily cleared over the last few decades. In fact, the new agricultural frontier in Brazil is the cerrado areas of northeastern Brazil including the states of Maranhao, Tocantins, Piaui, and Bahia, which is an area collectively known as Matopiba.

The Brazilian Environmental Minister has stated that it is inevitable that the cerrado area of Brazil will undergo a similar process. In fact, the Cerrado Working Group (GTC) was formed in 2017 to see what could be done to limit deforestation in the cerrado regions of Brazil.