Eye on Brazil: 5 million hectares of sustainable Amazon oil palm eyed, China $150 billion infra spend plan for Brazil, Petrobras' political corruption scandal

I was talking yesterday to Nicholas (Khor Reports research assistant) about Brazil oil palm. So since we've not really covered this here, I've gathered a few links below. It is fascinating to see China's infrastructure investment plans for Brazil to lower cost of bringing its product to market. That has been quite the bane of agriculture producers in Brazil interior. Brazil has identified a maximum 5 million hectares for oil palm, mostly for biodiesel purposes (imagine the cost savings of not having to transport diesel inland). How is this proceeding?

Also to note a key project is by Petrobras-Vale and the former is mired in a massive political corruption problems:

China - Brazil $50 billion infrastructure investment plan

China to invest $50 billion in Brazilian infrastructure AFP By Damian Wroclavsky May 14, 2015 7:27 PM; Brasília (AFP) - China will invest $50 billion to help overhaul Brazil's aging infrastructure, Brasilia said Thursday, ahead of an official visit by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. "There are $50 billion in new projects," said Jose Graca Lima, Brazil's undersecretary of state, who oversees Asia and Oceania. "We shall have to await the end of the visit to expand upon which projects," he said, without providing details. Battling a fifth straight year of poor growth and mired in a bruising graft scandal involving state oil giant Petrobras, Brazil is seeking to revamp its sagging infrastructure ahead of next year's Rio Olympics, the first Games to be held in South America. A Brazilian government source said Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, was determined to overhaul its dilapidated roads, railways, airports and ports ahead of the Olympics. The Chinese cash infusion is set to cover various sectors, including transport and energy. http://news.yahoo.com/china-invest-50-billion-brazil-212318218.html

China's ICBC, Brazil's Caixa to start $50 billion fund -sources Wed May 13, 2015 5:43pm EDT BRASILIA; May 13 Caixa Econômica Federal, Brazil's top mortgage lender, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) will create a $50 billion fund for Brazilian infrastructure investments, two government sources with knowledge of the plans said on Wednesday. The fund will be financed entirely by the ICBC, but both banks need to set up the regulatory framework to decide on the projects, said the Brazilian sources, who requested anonymity because the plan remains private. The plan will be formally announced when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Brazil next week, they added. Caixa and ICBC will sign a memorandum of understanding during Li's visit in which the main terms for the fund will be outlined, the sources said. The governments agreed the fund will finance a railway link from Brazil's Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean in Peru as a way to reduce the cost of exports to China, said one of the sources. The fund will also finance a joint-venture to produce steel in Brazil. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $250 billion in investment in Latin America over the next 10 years as part of a drive to boost resource-hungry China's influence in a region long dominated by the United States. Last year, China and Brazil agreed $7.5 billion in financing for Brazilian miner Vale SA, and the purchase of 60 passenger jets from planemaker Embraer SA. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/13/caixa-ec-federal-icbc-fund-idUSL1N0Y41C020150513

News links on Brazil oil palm topics

Oil palm set to take over from cattle ranching as the biggest threat to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest?  By Chris Lang 10 November 2014  Despite the reduction in deforestation in Brazil over the past decade, “the deforestation problem is far from solved”, notes Datu Research in a recent report about the beef industry and deforestation in Brazil. Datu describes the most effective tactic in reducing deforestation as “pressure from Western companies that demand deforestation-free supply chains”.  Demand for Brazilian beef is increasing. In August 2014, Russia announced a suspension of beef imports from several countries, including the USA, Australia, and the EU. Even before that announcement, demand was increasing. The Brazilian Beef Exporting Association reports that beef exports increased by more than 10% in the first eight months of 2014.  Datu argues that with the expansion of palm oil and other commodities, “it will become increasingly difficult to attribute deforestation to a specific commodity, making commodity-by-commodity enforcement methods less effective”. Instead, Datu and the Environmental Defense Fund (which paid for the report) suggest complementing deforestation-free supply chains with “enforcement and certification mechanisms focused not by commodity, but by jurisdiction”........ Datu is promoting a “zero net deforestation” approach, where forest can be cleared in some areas, “as long as other areas are sufficiently reforested to maintain net carbon density”. This raises the risk that biodiverse forests could be cleared, and “offset” by monocultures of fast-growing eucalyptus plantations.  Or even oil palm. Datu notes that the Brazilian government sees palm oil as a win-win opportunity: green fuel, green jobs, and a carbon sink “ideal for reforesting lost segments of the Amazon”. The report notes that REDD “has not yet been implemented at sufficient scale to have significant impact”. But with the jurisdiction approach, Datu writes that “the stage would be set” for REDD, “giving producers economic incentives”. In other words, payments from the sale of carbon credits that would allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue elsewhere.... http://www.redd-monitor.org/2014/11/10/oil-palm-set-to-take-over-from-cattle-ranching-as-the-biggest-threat-to-brazils-amazon-rainforest/

Oil Palm Changes Rural Culture in Brazilian Amazon By Fabiana Frayssinet; CONCORDIA DE PARÁ/MOJÚ/ACARÁ, Brazil , Nov 20 2013 (IPS) - Thousands of small farming families in Pará, in the Amazon jungle in northeast Brazil, have turned to the African oil palm as a new source of income, through contracts with biofuel companies. Strange bedfellows, which poses cultural and economic challenges. The small farm of Antônio de Oliveira smells like a mixture of oranges, black pepper and achiote or annatto (Bixa orellana), a shrub whose fruit is harvested for its seeds, which contain a natural dye that has coloured his farm red. “I didn’t know anything about oil palm…it’s really different to work with, it’s a queer bird, and complicated,” said Oliveira, who signed a contract with the biofuel company Biopalma three years ago to plant African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), known as “dendê” in Brazil. Biopalma belongs to the Vale mining company, and has 60,000 hectares of oil palm of its own. In addition, it buys the output of small farmers through its Family Agriculture programme. The company plans to use palm oil to produce biodiesel to run the machinery and vehicles at its mines..... http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/oil-palm-changes-rural-culture-in-brazilian-amazon/

Petrobras, Vale May Join to Make Brazil Palm Oil and Biodiesel 'By'Stephan Nielsen 2:32 AM HKT  August 15, 2012 Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, and Vale SA are discussing a partnership to produce palm oil and biodiesel in the northern state of Para. Both companies are currently developing separate biodiesel projects in the state, Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras said today in a statement. Petrobras’s biofuels unit said it will build a 230 million-liter (60.7 million-gallon) a year biodiesel facility in Para in its five-year plan for 2012-16, according to the statement. Vale plans to produce biodiesel from the palm oil in the region and mix it with regular diesel to fuel its Brazil operations from 2015, Petrobras said. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-08-14/petrobras-vale-may-join-to-make-brazil-palm-oil-and-biodiesel

Brazilian mining giant buys Amazon palm oil company  mongabay.com  February 03, 2011; Vale, a Brazilian mining giant, will buy palm oil producer Biopalma da Amazonia SA Reflorestamento Industria & Comercio, reports Bloomberg.  The deal, valued at $173.5 million, will enable the mining company to run more of its operations on palm oil biodiesel.  Vale began its palm oil push in 2009 when it formed a partnership with Biopalma. At the time Vale said the deal would save $150 million in fuel costs starting in 2014, with palm oil biodiesel replacing up to 20 percent of diesel consumption in the company's northern operations.  Biopalma has six oil palm plantations covering 18,400 hectares (45,467 acres) in Para, according to Vale. The company expects this to expand to 60,000 ha in 2013. The announcement comes less than a year after Brazil laid out plans to dramatically expand palm oil production in the Amazon. The initiative, called the Program for Sustainable Production of Palm Oil (O Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma), will provide $60 million to promote cultivation of oil palm in abandoned and degraded agricultural areas, including long-ago deforested lands used for sugar cane and pasture. ... http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0202-vale_biopalma.html

Brazil launches major push for sustainable palm oil in the Amazon by Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com  May 07, 2010 "Sustainable" palm oil effort may pressure Malaysia and Indonesia on environmental performance of widely used vegetable oil. Brazilian President Lula da Silva on Thursday laid out plans to expand palm oil production in the Amazon while minimizing risk to Earth's largest rainforest, reports Globo and Terra Brasil. The plan, called the Program for Sustainable Production of Palm Oil (O Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma), will provide $60 million to promote cultivation of oil palm in abandoned and degraded agricultural areas, including long-ago deforested lands used for sugar cane and pasture. Brazilian officials claim up to 50 million hectares of such land exist in the country.... Although Embrapa, Brazil's agricultural research agency, has identified some 29 million hectares (71.6 million acres) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation in the Amazon and 2.8 m ha (6.9 m acres) outside the region — an area that would dwarf the 13 m ha of oil palm currently cultivated worldwide — Brazil says it will strictly limit development to less than 5 million hectares. The program specifically prohibits expansion at the expense of native forests, a major concern among environmental groups that have watched the relentless conversion of tropical forests across Malaysia and Indonesia for oil palm over the past 25 years. The palm oil program marks a new focus for Brazil, which currently produces about 110,000 metric tons of crude palm oil per year, a fraction of the amount produced by market leaders Indonesia (16.9 million metric tons in 2008) and Malaysia (15.8 m tons), according to the FAO. But Brazilian growers could see a boost in the international market if they can cost-effectively produce palm oil without driving direct or indirect deforestation, a concern that has dogged Malaysian and Indonesian producers. Brazil says it will rely on its world-class satellite monitoring system to ensure that expansion does not cause deforestation.  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0507-amazon_palm_oil.html#Ap41ACGGl564lQL5.99