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UK Supermarkets Threaten to Boycott Brazil Exports Over Privatisation of Amazon Rainforest

Jennifer McDowall reports on the threatened boycott of Brazil by UK supermarkets and outlines the reasons behind it.

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Photo by Julia Volk


British supermarkets have taken a stand against the National Congress of Brazil in response to a proposed bill which could accelerate deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. In an open letter, 40 different retailers, including Tesco, Greggs, Aldi and Sainsbury’s, pledged to cease sourcing produce from the area if the law is passed.

This is the second time British retailers have banded together in an effort to influence the Brazilian Government. They rallied against a similar proposal in 2020 which was eventually shelved to avoid the loss of business from the UK.

In the letter, the signees urged the government to abandon the bill, saying “we will have no choice but to reconsider our support and use of the Brazilian agricultural commodity supply chain”. It is hoped that the letter will have the same effect this year as the situation in the Amazon is getting worse.



Deforestation

The Amazon rainforest covers a massive 2.72 million square miles and is an important haven of biodiversity, being home to 10% of all species on earth and many groups of indigenous people. The forest is also vital to the planet’s health as it acts as carbon sink with the capacity to store 100 billion metric tonnes of carbon. Although the forest is spread across nine countries, 60% of it is located in Brazil.

Sadly, much of the Amazon rainforest is lost to deforestation every year, for growing soy, farming cattle or for logging. Although a lot of deforestation is illegal, logging and farming are not prohibited in the Amazon. In 1965, Brazil introduced the ‘forest code’ which allows people to purchase land in the Amazon but requires them to keep up to 80% of the land unfarmed. However, the level of deforestation in this vulnerable area is at its highest since 2008.

The Bill

The proposed Land Reform Bill would allow the purchase of land illegally occupied since 2014. This would not only legitimise the illegal occupation of public land; it is thought that the bill would also lead to an acceleration of deforestation and development of land seized illegally.

A research study of rural Amazon properties, published in Science magazine, revealed that only 2% of properties were responsible for 62% of illegal deforestation. In addition, the majority of this deforested area was used to produce soy and beef to be exported to Europe.



Exports to Europe

As well as beef, Brazil is also a major exporter of corn, leather and soy, which is used as animal feed throughout the world, and so is crucial to many global supply chains. 41% of all soy imported to Europe comes from the Amazon and disturbingly, 22% of soy and 60% of beef consumed in Europe comes from land that has been illegally deforested. Now, at least, food retailers have realized there is a problem and the threat of the loss of their collective business is a powerful one.

“We consider the Amazon as a vital part of the earth system that’s essential to the security of our planet as well as being a critical part of a prosperous future for Brazilians and all of society.”

This is a step in the right direction for British supermarkets, but it’s just the beginning. Changes have to be made to ensure supply chains are sustainable to protect vulnerable areas like the Amazon.


 

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