Brazil scraps regulation banning sugarcane expansion in Amazon

Despite international outrage against forest fires in Brazil’s Amazon, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has annulled a 10-year-old regulation banning the expansion of sugarcane planted in the world’s largest rainforest.

The regulation had banned sugarcane expansion in a wetland savanna known as Pantanal – which sprawled over parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay – and in the indigenous and reforested areas, Bloomberg reported on 7 November.

The scrapped regulation had allowed only sustainable expansion and had helped Brazilian ethanol, mostly made from sugarcane, to be globally recognised as a fuel with high sustainability standards.

Reuters wrote that the regulation was scrapped because the 2009 decree was considered obsolete and other regulatory instruments, such as the country’s new forest law and RenovaBio programme, were thought to be more efficient for oversight.

Brazilian agricultural groups had warned that major importers could start snubbing purchases from the commodity powerhouse because of environmental concerns, Bloomberg wrote.

Meanwhile Brazil’s agriculture minister Tereza Cristina Dias told journalists on 12 November that a 2008 commitment from the country’s grain traders not to buy oilseed from land cleared in the Amazon was “absurd”, Reuters reported.

“The soya moratorium is a private affair between private parties. I think it is absurd, we have ... means to show where our soya is produced and if it can be produced there,” she said.

Reuters wrote that farming group Aprosoja Brasil was intensifying lobbying efforts to end the soya moratorium.

Dias said the country’s forestry code was already strict about land usage in the Amazon region, allowing farmers to use up to 20% of the land for agriculture.