At a meeting in a swanky London boardroom, Roberto Jaguaribe, former Brazilian diplomat and current president of trade and investment agency Apex-Brasil, said the country needed to be a leader in sustainable food production.
As one of the world’s largest exporters of chicken, beef, pork, soybeans and a host of other foodstuffs, Brazilian exports account for around 7% of global agriculture trade. But against a backdrop of accusations on deforestation and meat industry corruption, Apex-Brasil said the country was working hard to improve its sustainability image.
“For Brazil, sustainability is not a mere reputational exercise. Sustainability is entrenched in our core values as a people, and it is an essential driving force for the global competitiveness of our products,” said Apex-Brasil.
For starters, Brazil has claimed to be using increasingly smaller pasture areas to rear high numbers of cattle, while making gains in beef quality and productivity.
Brazilian beef ‘increasingly sustainable’
“This has been the biggest contribution of livestock in favour of the sustainability of Brazilian agribusiness – an excellent performance with minimal space use,” an Apex-Brasil representative said.
These productivity gains have allowed Brazil to release land to develop cultivation clusters, negating the need to hack down native vegetation.
In fact, two aspects make beef livestock production “increasingly sustainable”, according to Apex-Brasil. First is the integration of crops, livestock and forestry. This allows meat to be classified as carbon-neutral.
Emissions are compensated by the production of timber and the accumulation of vegetable matter in the pasture. Brazil has committed to rolling out several more of these measures. And the total area employing this style of land management has more than doubled in the last five years.
The second aspect supporting sustainable beef production is more technical – it is linked to the development of bacteria for biological fixation of nitrogen in pastures. Put simply, this feature allows for increased productivity without the need to use chemicals.
Apex-Brasil also hit out at the “common misconception” that Brazil could only boost agricultural production “at the expense of the environment”.
The country has huge tracts of lands for the production of grain, meat and crops, which means deforestation is not necessary.
Brazil has implemented some of “the world’s toughest environmental measures” for agriculture.
Under the Forest Code, 1965, landowners must protect huge swathes of land. This legislation has seen conservation of land rise from 50% to 80% in the Amazon, meaning landowners in the region can only farm a fifth of their land, Apex-Brasil claimed.
The agency also stressed deforestation in the Amazon “declined massively” between 2004 and 2016, falling by 70%. Last year, deforestation stood at 7,989 square kilometres (km2) compared to 27,772 km2 in 2004.