Jun 27, 2023

Rate of Deforestation in Amazon Declined First 5 Months of 2023

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

After an alarming increase in deforestation in the Amazon Biome of Brazil in 2022, the situation is looking better for 2023.

In the Annual Deforestation Report produced by MapBiomas, which is a group of universities, non-governmental organizations, and technology companies in Brazil, the area deforested in 2022 increased 22.3% compared to 2021 to 2.05 million hectares (5.06 million acres).

Agricultural activity accounted for 1,960,000 hectares or 95.7% of the total deforestation in 2022. Illegal gold mining accounted for 5,900 hectares (14,500 acres) and illegal mining in general accounted for 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres). Approximately 90% of the deforestation occurred in the Amazon and cerrado biomes. Approximately 65% of the deforestation impacted forest, 31% savannas, and 3.6% grasslands.

The state of Para accounted for 22.2% of the total deforestation followed by Amazonas at 13.3%, Mato Grosso at 11.6%, Bahia at 10.9%, and Maranhao at 8.2%.

That's the bad news, now the more encouraging news is that deforestation in the Amazon Biome of Brazil from January through May of 2023 declined 31% according to the Brazilian Environmental Minister. The improvement is the result of a change in administrations in Brazil.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assumed power on January 1, 2023 promising to enforce environmental laws against illegal deforestation, but it took several months to ramp up enforcement activities.

Under the prior administration of Jair Bolsonaro, budgets and personnel for enforcement of environmental laws were cut. Fines for those found to have violated environmental laws were greatly reduced or eliminated entirely. The Bolsonaro administration issued thousands of land titles for squatters who occupied and cleared land illegally, which signaled a hands-off approach to such activity.

President Lula's goal is zero illegal deforestation, but that goal will probably never be achieved in such a large and remote area as the Amazon Biome. Helping to make progress toward that goal are regulatory actions taken by grain companies and meat processors to ensure that none of the products they purchase from suppliers come from illegally cleared land.

Multinational grain companies have had such a policy in place for more than a decade, but it was hard to track illegal land clearing in real time. That has improved with the Brazilian Space Agency's implementation of their System to Detect Deforestation in Real Time in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.