Brazil deforestation accelerates

BBC News, in its 18 May 2011 article "Brazil: Amazon rainforest destruction rises sharply,", reports the following:

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased by almost six times...... New satellite images show deforestation has increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011.... Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil.... Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years.

The latest data comes amid a heated debate in the lower house of Congress on whether to ease an existing law on forest protection.... Brazil's Forest Code, enacted in 1934 and subsequently amended in 1965, sets out how much of his land a farmer can deforest...... Regulations currently require that 80% of a landholding in the Amazon remain forest, but that falls to 20% in other areas.

Proponents of change say the law impedes economic development and contend that Brazil must open more land for agriculture..... However, opponents fear that in their current form some of the proposed changes might give farmers a form of amnesty for deforested land..... The changes were put forward by Aldo Rebelo, leader of Brazil's Communist Party (PCdoB) and backed by a group in Congress known as the "ruralists" who want Brazil to develop its agribusiness sector.

Khor Reports Comments:

a) Indonesia is facing much the same debate as Brazil over forest protection vs. agribusiness and rural economic development. Indonesia is over due in announcing its policy on a moratorium on deforestation, as part of its commitment to REDD plus, which is being funded to the tune of USD 1 billion by the oil-producing Norwegian state. A pilot project in Central Kalimantan is being developed^.

b) Anecdotes from the heavy equipment sector (supplying machines for land clearance) suggest that the pace of land clearance in Indonesia is likely proceeding at an unabated pace. Quite possibly, to clear as much land as possible before any new restrictions are put in place.

c) Environmentalists have won significant battles by having several large oil palm public-listed plantation groups accept slower or no forest clearance; as required via membership of the RSPO and also via more stringent promises such as the Golden Agri (Sinar Mas) - The Forest Trust deal. However, they have to balance these 'wins' against the possibility of accelerated land clearance by mid-sized and smaller planters and also by smallholders. What is the net effect on the rate of deforestation?

d) Khor Reports expects that monitoring via satellite ecosystem mapping will be a crucial tool in this environmentalist - developmentalist tussle. We talked about the 'hot topic' of HCV mapping in our newsletter "Palm Oil Strategic Analysis, Issue 003 , 27 Oct 2010." You can download a copy here:

^ "Local communities oblivious to govt’s plans for their forests," The Jakarta Post, 05/12/2011, weblink: