BOGOR, Indonesia, April 6, 2004 (ENS):
Rapid growth in the Brazilian beef industry is responsible
for much of the recent spike in the destruction of the
Amazon rainforest, according to a report by the Center
for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) based in
Indonesia. The report comes amid new evidence that the
rate of Amazon deforestation is at a record high.
"This research provides the first substantial
data to support recent speculation about the role international
demand for Brazilian beef is playing in Brazil's skyrocketing
deforestation rate," says David Kaimowitz, director
general of CIFOR and one of the report's authors. "In
a nutshell, cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out
of Brazil's Amazon rainforests."
Kaimowitz notes that the Brazilian government's Space
Research Institute (INPE) is expected to shortly issue
satellite images that show the Amazon rainforest disappearing
at an alarming rate. The images are expected to show
the continuation of the trend reported in 2003, when
INPE released figures showing a 40 percent increase
in deforestation over the 2002 figure.
Preliminary indications suggest the latest figures
will be equal to or greater than the extremely high
figure of 2.5 million hectares reported last year.
From 1990 to 2000, the total area of forest lost in
the Amazon rose from 41.5 million hectares to 58.7 million
Many environmentalists have shown justifiable concern
about the expansion of soybean cultivation and logging
in the Amazon, the report says, but that explains "only
a small percentage of total deforestation."
Much of the Amazon rainforest destroyed in the past
decade has become pasture, according to CIFOR's report
"Hamburger Connection Fuels Amazon Destruction."
The full version of the report will be released in mid-2004.
The report looks at the deforestation figures in concert
with the massive surge in the Brazilian Amazon's cattle
population, which has more than doubled from 26 million
head in 1990 to 57 million in 2002. Brazil's beef exports
have increased more than five times in the last six
The jump in the worldwide demand for Brazilian beef
has been brought on by several factors, CIFOR researchers
say, among them concerns regarding the threat of mad
cow disease in several other cattle producing countries
such as the United States, Canada and the UK.
The report notes that the Brazilian cattle industry
has also benefited from a recent devaluation of the
Brazilian currency and a decrease in the nation's incidence
of foot-and-mouth disease.
Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Europe's processed
meat imports that came from Brazil rose from 40 to 74
percent. Markets in Russia and the Middle East are also
responsible for much of this new demand for Brazilian
beef. Recently certified free of foot-and-mouth disease,
beef from Brazil is considered preferable to beef from
other regions where cases of mad cow disease have been
"Brazil's success in combating foot-and-mouth
disease may be good news for the cows, but it is bad
news for the forest," Kaimowitz said.
In 1995, Brazil exported less than $500 million of
beef - its 2003 total was three times that amount.
And the volume of exports between 1997 and 2003 increased
more than five-fold, from 232,000 to nearly 1.2 million
Some 80 percent of the growth in the cattle industry
was in the Amazon, according to the report.
CIFOR's researchers say ranching is particularly profitable
in the Amazon because the price of land is low.
"These prices remain very low in part because
farmers find it easy to illegally occupy government
land without being prosecuted, and to deforest areas
much greater than the 20 percent of their farms currently
permitted by law," the report said.
The forestry research group praises a deforestation
action plan announced in March by Brazil's President
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva but report coauthor
and CIFOR researcher Benoit Mertens cautions that limiting
the negative impact on Brazilian rainforests will require
"a massive effort."
"The international and domestic market forces
currently promoting the cattle-driven deforestation
described in this report are much stronger than ever,"
Mertens said. "Even with the most determined policy
response, it might be hard to decisively curb deforestation."
Brazil's plan commits the government to spending $135
million on activities designed to reduce deforestation,
including better planning for land use, greater enforcement
of laws regarding deforestation and the illegal occupation
of government lands, and improved monitoring of deforestation.
There will be more detailed reviews of public infrastructure
investments, greater support for indigenous territories
and community forestry, increased support for sustainable
agriculture, and greater control over credit for ranchers,
the Brazilian government promised.
The Lula government has pledged to carry out these
objectives with the coordinated power of 12 government
"The government's approach goes in the right direction,
but unless urgent action is taken, the Brazilian Amazon
could lose an additional area the size of Denmark over
the next 18 months," Mertens said. "Any steps
to effectively tackle Brazil's deforestation problem
will require high level attention, and a number of additional
measures, more funds, and greater coordination between
and within the key ministries."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights