A deal reached between European Union (EU) lawmakers and governments to ban the import of products which contribute to deforestation has received a mixed reaction from EU trade associations representing the grain, oilseeds, crushing and animal feed sectors, World Grain reported.

The preliminary agreement, which still needed to be formally adopted by the EU parliament, would require companies to verify that the goods they sold in the EU had not led to deforestation and forest degradation anywhere in the world as of 2021, AP News wrote on 6 December.

Companies would need to show that goods they imported complied with rules in the country of origin, including on human rights and the protection of indigenous people.

Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee, was quoted by AP News as saying that the agreement by the 27-nation bloc marked a “world first”.

“Europe will close its doors to the everyday products that have the highest impact on deforestation in the world if their importers are not able to demonstrate, with supporting documents, that they do not come from deforested areas,” he said.

Accepting that the regulation was a necessary initiative, EU trade association for cereals, rice, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats COCERAL, EU vegetable oil and protein meal industry association FEDIOL and EU feed manufacturers’ federation FEFAC welcomed aspects of the deal, including guidelines, the 18-month timeline for implementation and lower percentage of checks for low-risk countries, the 6 December World Grain report said.

The organisations said they appreciated that the agreement did not include corn and other ecosystems.

The agreement applies to beef, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soyabeans and water and some derived products including chocolate, furniture and leather.

However, the groups were not in favour of a requirement for traceability and implied chain of custody that they said would have a number of unintended consequences, World Grain wrote.

“These consequences will be felt deeply, particularly as this may lead to the exclusion of smallholders, the most vulnerable players in these supply chains, given the tight implementation deadline, or to disinvestment from high-risk areas,” the groups were quoted as saying.

“Failure to set in place similarly ambitious accompanying measures for government-to-government engagement and partnerships, with incentives and support, will not help overcome the many legal, organisational or logistical impediments arising, as operators will be looking at implementing the EU regulation throughout these complex supply chains.”

Adding that the deal needed to be examined in more detail and its implications fully assessed, COCERAL, FEDIOL and FEFAC said they remained fully committed to supporting solutions for the implementation of the regulation to make it work in practice while tackling global deforestation.

Forests around the world were increasingly under threat from clearance for timber and agriculture, including soyabean and palm oil, AP News wrote, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that 420M ha of forest – an area larger than the EU – were destroyed between 1990 and 2020.