Sustainable Soy in Brazil is Possible – Why are Soy Traders Blocking it?

This letter by Sarah Lake, Mighty Earth’s Vice-President and Global Director for Latin America, was published in the Financial Times on December 21, 2020.

The letter Brazil’s farmers should be paid not penalised (December 18) highlights the continued misrepresentation of joint efforts for forest and land protections in Brazil.

The Brazilian government commitment to sustainability is woefully insufficient and the latest data from the Brazilian space agency confirms it: a 12-year high for deforestation in the Amazon.

Now, the largest soy traders in Brazil and the industry association representing them, Abiove, have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect vital ecosystems in Brazil, and they are throwing it away. For nearly four years, the largest soy traders have been in negotiations with a coalition of Brazilian NGOs to create an industry-wide system to avoid further savanna conversion in the Cerrado – an effort that has been widely applauded.

The joint efforts for the Cerrado meet all the demands of Ambassador Arruda and the soy traders. It includes compensation for farmers who protect forests and grasslands on their property, with over US$20 million already committed from international buyers. It details how soy production can triple in size by utilizing previously cleared land that is readily available. And it builds on the existing commitments of the soy traders in the Amazon to go beyond Brazilian legal requirements that have led to the dire state we face today.

So, the question is not if, or how, Brazilian farmers can sustainably produce soy and be paid for their efforts. Instead, the question is: when will soy traders take advantage of the opportunity before them and provide a sustainable future for Brazilian farmers.