Which are the links between the EU-Mercosur agreement, pork production in Brazil, soybean production and related land use changes, pork trade and socioeconomic and environmental impacts?
The case study aims to explore the linkages between EU-Mercosur trade agreement, pork production in Brazil, soybean production and the related dynamics of land-use change, and the consequent socio-economic and environmental impacts. It is widely known that the recent expansion of large-scale soy cultivation has caused significant socio-economic and environmental impacts, particularly in the Cerrado areas of the Matopiba region of Brazil. Additional to the deforestation of environmentally sensitive areas, there are reported land conflicts, displacements of traditional land users and water conflicts associated with the expansion of soybeans in Matopiba, with severe impacts on smallholder livelihoods. Leverage points for a more sustainable pork production and trade are identified with a focus on specific provisions in trade agreement implementation.
The EU-Mercosur agreement contains provisions for direct land-use change, with view to prevent deforestation due to the European imports of soybeans and other crops. But no provision addresses the indirect land-use change that might originate from additional pressure on the input markets due to growing pork exports.
Through the recent EU-Mercosur agreement a quota of 25 thousand tons of export pork will be available for Mercosur countries under a competitive tariff of EUR 83/ton. This agreement will significantly change the situation for pork value chains, and lead to increases in pork production and the amount of pork feed needed. This market expansion might impact pork value chains and create additional pressure on land use. Pork production in Brazil is highly dependent on soybeans, which account for most of the pork feed. The EU-Mercosur agreement contains provisions for direct land-use change resulting from European imports of soybeans and other crops with a view to preventing deforestation.
Despite being a growing exporter of pork amounting to more than 750,000 tons in 2019, Brazilian exports of pork to the EU are negligible. This is partially due to the EU’s own competitiveness in this sector, but also to trade barriers that inhibit imports from Mercosur countries. This context is expected to change with the implementation of the EU-Mercosur agreement.
The case study aims to explore the pork trade system in Brazil under a food system approach. The case study will use the TEEB-AgriFood framework in exploring the interactions of the food system with environmental, social, human, and produced capitals. The framework will be used in combination with other systems tools such as Soft System Methodology (SSM) – for collectively identifying the issues and the feasible and desired transformations in the current system while acknowledging the different ways in which the system, the issues and the transformations proposed are perceived by different stakeholders. System dynamics and a group model building approach will be used to co-create simulation models exploring alternative scenarios on the proposed transformations and for identifying the leverage points in the system.
The methodological framework requires an active engagement of different stakeholders in exploring the situation, framing the problems, defining the system purpose and boundaries, and finally developing a model that helps in the identification of desirable and culturally feasible interventions for improving the performance of the system. The case study will engage diverse stakeholders bringing diverse perspectives together. It is worth highlighting that the questions addressed are highly contested, where many stakeholders intend to deny the existence of an issue. The case study will get as deep as possible into relevant discourses through key local partners. In this regard, we plan to carry out interviews with key stakeholders and participatory workshops that include break-out sessions to open the discussions and promote sharing and mutual understanding between stakeholders. Considering the main focus of the analysis, we will measure aspects related to natural environment, specifically focused on pressure on inputs (land, use change, water use, deforestation), and the social-economic impacts of the new agreement (work conditions, incomes, general livelihood of small producers, etc.). In addition, national and international policy regulation will be included in the analysis in order to establish the links between regulatory frameworks and the socio-economic changes in the territory (subside, environmental regulations, tariffs, etc.).
The analysis will provide policymakers with a systemic view of the situation that goes beyond the value chain. It will highlight politically and socially relevant issues such as land and water grabbing, land-use changes and displacement of smallholders, deforestation and biodiversity loss in environmentally sensitive areas. The process of systemic analysis will help to create a common language and understanding among different stakeholders regarding the different pathways towards mitigating adverse impacts. The case study will provide stakeholders with solid evidence that can influence decision-makers in advancing food system reform towards enhanced sustainability and improved smallholder livelihoods. Provisions in trade agreement implementation will be identified that can promote pork production models that respect the environment and improve livelihoods of smallholders and family farms.

Case Study Leader

Technical University of Madrid

SDG's Addressed


Geographical Focus and Scale


Product and market focus

Pork and soybean related production; European market

Key stakeholders

  • Farmers and farmers’ organizations
  • Input suppliers
  • Public officers and policy makers
  • Financial institutions
  • Processors, traders and consumers