Tesco commits £10m to combat deforestation from soy production in Brazil

The Cerrado region

Tesco, along with animal nutrition business, Nutreco, and Grieg Seafood have pledged to support soy farmers in the region, where around 50% of the natural landscape is believed to have been lost since 2000. 

The funding will assist farmers to protect native vegetation and to eventually only produce soy on existing agricultural land. Tesco has called on other firms to commit to the initiative and has also invited the Brazilian soy industry to lead the development.

Tesco Group’s chief executive, Dave Lewis said: “We source much of our soy for animal feed from Brazil and the Cerrado region, so it’s only right we play a leading role in protecting this biodiverse region for future generations.

“The Funding for Soy Farmers in the Cerrado initiative is the first step in safeguarding a huge, biodiverse and carbon-rich area of Brazil, while also allowing farmers to continue to farm soy sustainably. This is an important next step in the Cerrado’s sustainability journey, but it will only be truly transformative if more organisations come forward and support it.”

joint report from WWF and RSPB concluded that the Cerrado region, which once covered a quarter of Brazil, loses an area the size of London every two months as global demand for products including cocoa, palm oil and soy increases.

In 2018, a string of big-name investment corporations including Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), APG and Robeco joined dozens of large corporate buyers such as Unilever, Tesco and Marks and Spencer (M&S) in signing the Cerrado Manifesto to protect the area from biodiversity loss.

In the same year, Tesco published its Transition Plan to achieving zero-net deforestation in its sourcing of soy by 2025.

Sustainable soy

Global demand for soy is expected to increase 4% annually, mainly for its use as an ingredient in animal feed.

Earlier this week, Tesco was amongst a number of companies that signed a letter calling for more support for the Amazon Soy Moratorium (ASM).

The ASM was established in 2006 after soy production in the Amazon expanded by one million hectares and contributing to deforestation at rapid scale over a five-year period. Since the ASM was implemented, deforestation from soy in the Amazon decreased from 30% to less than 1.5%, while soy production in the area has increased by 400%.

However, reports from Brazil suggest that local farmers, namely the Aprosoja group, are attempting to end the ASM in order to improve market competitiveness in the region.

Commenting on the announcement, WWF UK’s chief executive Tanya Steele said: “The Cerrado, like its neighbour the Amazon rainforest, is critical to the survival of our planet but it has never been under greater threat. This move from Tesco is a significant step forward for the sector and demonstrates real leadership in the fight to protect precious places like the Cerrado, a unique habitat that is home to nearly 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

“If we don’t protect our forests and precious natural habitats, we lose in the fight against climate change. We urge other businesses, foundations and governments to step up and join the fight.”

 Matt Mace

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