“Latin American countries produce a large segment of the global supply of beef. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico are exporting thousands of tonnes of beef to fast growing countries with large consumer markets such as China, and demand is growing rapidly,’’ said Ruaraidh Petre, Executive Director of the Global Roundtable of Sustainable Beef (GRSB).
Josefina Eisele, Director of the Roundtable for Latin America, explained at the opening of the event: “The agenda of the Summit represents the most important opportunities that impact the sustainability of beef in Latin America today. In addition to the central issues such as deforestation and animal welfare, efforts will be devoted to analyzing the real impacts of jurisdictional approaches, traceability, capacity development and investments on sustainable beef."
Opportunities for sustainable meat trade
Rusong Li and Isabel Nepstad, Solidaridad’s Country Manager and Senior Consultant in China respectively, have participated in the session on global market trends. This session laid emphasis on the markets important for meat export from Latin America.
According to data from the General Customs Administration, in 2018 China imported 1,039 million tonnes of beef and more than half of the product came from South American countries.
Qiangde Lu, General Secretary of the Chinese meat department, explained in an interview with Solidaridad that the government of his country is committed to reducing its carbon emissions from meat production, which opens up an important opportunity to increase the export of sustainably produced meat from South America to the Chinese market.
"The Chinese population, especially young people, demands meat consumption. And access to new technologies has allowed the creation of a very active e-commerce market in the sector. In this context, there is a growing demand for transparency, certifications and a guarantee of product quality level", Isabel Nepstad added. Ensuring the traceability of the products and practices of suppliers from South America, and generating reliable information on the environmental conservation practices applied on the farms where the cattle are raised come into play here.
“If we manage to sensitize the Chinese market, we will have a great impact on the livestock chain,” concluded Ruaraidh Petre.
Providing reliable information to the markets
In the Brazilian Amazon, livestock is considered to be one of the main triggers for deforestation, which occurs as a result of converting forest land into grassland areas. This negatively affects the image of the country abroad.
Joyce Brandão presenting the results of Solidaridad’s carbon balance project in the Amazon
Joyce Brandão, manager of Solidaridad programmes in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes, participated in the session on greenhouse gases (GHG), moderated by Ruaridh Petre. She presented the first results of the Inclusive and Sustainable Territories Programme in the Amazon.
The programme has been developing a low-carbon family farming model in Novo Repartimento (PA) in the Brazilian Amazon since 2015. The model combines technical assistance for the recovery of degraded grassland areas, agroforestry systems with cocoa, and intensified breeding.
“Livestock is key to nutrition and food security, and low carbon production is possible. We can reduce methane production by combining livestock production with other crops and creating healthier and more sustainable habits that contribute to the fight against poverty, obesity and biodiversity protection,” explained Rafael Zavala, representative of FAO Brazil.
In order to generate evidence on the impact that sustainable practices can have on the emission of GHG, in 2017 Solidaridad and Imaflora developed a methodology to calculate the carbon balance of different production scenarios. In this way, it was shown that combining good livestock practices with agroforestry systems guarantees the best possible carbon balance in the context of family farming in the Amazon.
"I think that the convergence point between GRSB and other round tables is their contribution to a positive carbon balance, which mitigates and sequesters CO2," explained Brandão.
“Technology can help us improve the sustainability of the livestock chain, especially in changing field practices. Solidaridad is represented here, especially for its work on environmental issues,” Petre said and pointed out the importance of reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: “SDGs are ambitious, but attainable for the beef sector. I would highlight the SDGs related to climate and SDG #17, about partnerships, as crucial for the sector.”
From left to right, a number of representatives of the Paraguayan delegation: Enrique Callizo from CREA, Marcelo Insaurranlde from Solidaridad, Alfred Fast -President of the Paraguayan National Roundtable of Sustainable Beef-, Fernando Plate and Mauricio Britez, both from CREA
Solidaridad staff and producer organization Grupo CREA attended the event and described the calculator they are developing with Imaflora in Paraguay. Similar to its twin in Brazil, the calculator will seek to establish and measure productive efficiency (meat production per hectare) and economic livestock practices can influence a better carbon balance, and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
“There are many analyses on GHG emissions, but not on carbon capture, so no carbon balances are made. Although livestock production emits, it can also capture. That is why you have to make efforts to positively communicate about how to improve the balance,” said Enrique Callizo, CREA technician.
Including small producers
Another challenge that the beef value chain faces in Latin America is to find incentives for small producers to adopt more sustainable livestock practices in order to integrate them into national mitigation strategies linked to national and international commitments.
“It is important to develop a sustainable meat production which takes care of the environment and the producers, through investments and agricultural innovation. We need an orchestrated action against the effects of climate change, with greater participation of the private sector. In this way, the benefits will be greater, also at the economic level,” stated Haroldo Machado, UNDP Special Advisor for Sustainable Development in Brazil.
In addition to demonstrating that livestock without forest clearing is possible, the Novo Repartimento project also seeks to demonstrate that this type of livestock is profitable for the small producer.
Smallholder livestock farming in the Amazon
“To achieve a result that really aligns social inclusion, economic development and the reduction of carbon emissions, small farmers need actions that foster their technical capacity and the dissemination of good practices, to ensure a significant increase in income and the viability of livestock,” said Joyce Brandão.
"Social inclusion is a vital element to be considered in the production chain and cannot be ignored."
Read more on the recent Research carried out by Wageningen University, GTPS, Embrapa and Solidaridad on how livestock breeding in the Amazon region can bring economic and social advances, as well as reduce GHG emissions.
"We need to move from isolated success cases to business cases that show the financial, environmental and productivity benefits generated by sustainable livestock," said David Calderón, livestock programme manager from Solidaridad in Colombia, who presented the progress of the Colombian national roundtable for sustainable meat at the summit.
Since the creation of the GRSB, Solidaridad has been part of different spaces of dialogue and national multi-stakeholder roundtables in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Colombia, in order to agree on minimum sustainability criteria in the sector, adapted to each context.
David Calderón, livestock programme manager in Colombia representing the Colombian National Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
In Colombia, Solidaridad leads the market group of the Sustainable Livestock Bureau that seeks market incentives for sustainable beef to be marketed and sold. The market for this type of products in Colombia is still incipient but with a high growth potential.