- Europe's demand for beef made 2003 one of the worst years
ever for Amazonian deforestation, according to an international research
report that quotes Brazilian government figures due to be released soon.
- Last year satellite pictures showed that almost 10,000
square miles of the world's largest continuous forest was lost, a 40% increase
on the 2002 figure.
- And this year's loss could be greater, says the internationally
funded Centre for International Forestry Research (Cifor).
- The destruction is being driven by escalating European
demand for beef, amid fears of mad cow disease and foot and mouth in local
herds, said yesterday's Cifor report.
- EU countries, says the report, now take almost 40% of
Brazil's 578,000 tonnes of exported beef. Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia
between them import 35%.
- The US, which has strict beef quota systems to protect
its own ranchers, only takes 8%.
- "The deforestation is being fuelled by beef exports,
with cattle ranchers making mincemeat out of the rainforests," said
David Kaimowitz, director general of Cifor and one of the report's authors.
He said that logging contributed only indirectly to deforestation.
- The Amazon's cattle population more than doubled to 57
million between 1990 and 2002, says the report.
- "[In that time] the percentage of Europe's processed
meat imports that came from Brazil rose from 40% to 74%. Markets in Russia
and the Middle East are also responsible for much of this new demand for
- But the report plays down US claims that GM-free soya
farming for the European market was fuelling deforestation.
- "Although the last few years have witnessed a great
deal of justifiable concern about the expansion of soybean cultivation
into the Amazon, that still explains only a small percentage of total deforestation,"
according to the authors.
- Mr Kaimowitz yesterday warned that the rate of Amazonian
deforestation could escalate in the next few years as Brazil becomes entirely
free of foot and mouth disease.
- "Since 2003, the states of Mato Grosso, Rondonia,
and Tocantins have been declared FMD-free, and can sell their beef anywhere
they want. These changes have increased prices in the Amazon, and hence
the incentive to deforest", say the authors.
- The report suggested that giant ranching operations linked
to European supermarkets were now dominating the beef export market.
- "In the 1970s and 1980s, most of the meat from the
Amazon was being produced by small ranchers selling to local slaughterhouses.
Very large commercial ranchers linked to supermarkets are now targeting
the whole of Brazil and the global market," said Mr Kaimowitz
- Two weeks ago, Brazil's President Luis Inacio (Lula)
da Silva announced £73m of new measures to restrain deforestation
in the Amazon, committing the government to better planning, law enforcement,
monitoring of deforestation and greater support for indigenous territories
and community forestry.
- "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," said Benoit Mertens,
an author of the report.
- Cifor recommends that the Brazilian government should
also try to keep ranchers off government land, restrict road projects that
open up the forest, and provide economic incentives to maintain land as
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