The dramatic rise in the demand for Brazil’s beef and soybeans has taken its toll on the Amazon, Greenpeace has lamented, saying that the rainforest became vulnerable to the fires that are currently combing through it due to the rapid spread of deforestation in the past decade.
Brazil has posted record exports of both beef and soybeans in 2018, having had sent a record 1.64 million tons of beef to its top markets, while its soybean exports rose by 22.2% from the 2017 figures. The landmark growth, however, was not achieved overnight.
It took decades of Amazon clearing to cement its position as the world’s largest beef exporter, with Greenpeace researcher Romulo Batista being quoted as saying that more than 65% of the rainforest has been deforested in the past decade alone to keep up with the ever-growing demand.
“Extensive cattle farming is the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon,” Batista said.
Demand for beef surged ten-folds in the past two decades, with China, Egypt and the European Union sitting as Brazil’s top markets for beef, the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association has revealed.
The same goes with Brazilian soybean exports, which jumped by 22.2% in 2018 driven by the escalating trade war between the United States and China. The substantial rise in demand for the crop began in the 1970s and has increased gradually ever since.
Data showed that about 6.5% of the deforested land in the Amazon had been utilized to boost agricultural production. Other forests in Brazil are also at risk of meeting the same fate as the Amazon as companies move to expand their soybean cultivation to meet the global demand.
Major fires broke out in the Amazon earlier this month, prompting international calls for a change in President Jair Bolsonaro’s controversial Amazon policies. Industry leaders and the world’s biggest economies have offered millions in foreign aid to mitigate the fires, but the Brazilian government remains firm with its existing regulations.