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
"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 hectares.
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
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 years.
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 identified.
"Brazil's success in combating foot-and-mouth disease may
be good news for the cows, but it is bad news for the forest,"
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 metric tons.
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
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
The Lula government has pledged to carry out these objectives with
the coordinated power of 12 government ministries.
"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 Reserved.