The EU-Mercosur agreement contains provisions for direct land-use change, with view to inhibit 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 meat exports. 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.
The recent and yet to be implemented EU-Mercosur agreement sets new standards and practices on several agricultural exports, including socio-environmental clauses affecting land-use and food systems and meat export quotas that would increase market access and change competitiveness Mercosur exports. This market expansion might impact the soy-beans-meat complex, both through direct exports and increased demand for agricultural inputs. While this agreement would directly affect only a decreasing share of the Brazilian trade portfolio – considering that the recent expansion of exports from Brazilian agribusiness is due to explosive Asian market demand – indirect effects could be observed through the influence of European standards in global regimes.
Besides international trade agreements, the case study will explore policy frameworks at national and local level, including both public and private measures and standards that impacts on soybeans-meat complex social and environmental sustainability.
To delve into how trade regimes can be used to influence land-use and food systems pathways of the soybeans-meat complex in the MATOPIBA region, the case study will:
- Review main drivers of the soy-meat complex and how they have influenced land-use and food systems pathways in the region.
- Assess stakeholders’ perceptions on the impacts of soy-meat expansion on land-use and food systems dynamics in the region.
- Explore the potential trade-offs and synergies between the soy-meat complex dynamics and economic, social, and environmental goals, and how these can be balanced.
- Discuss the potential future scenarios for the expansion of the soy-meat complex in MATOPIBA, and how governance structures and policies be designed to promote sustainable land-use and food systems dynamics and pathways. To this end, different scenarios about implementation of political measures (local, national, and international) to govern soy-meat complex trade in MATOPIBA will be explored and discussed among stakeholders.
The methodological framework – TEEB AgriFood – and the specific tools proposed require 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 systemically desirable and culturally feasible interventions improving the systems’ outcomes and pathways. This case study will engage diverse stakeholders bringing diverse perspectives on the soybean production system that provides inputs for animal feed. It is worth highlighting that this is a highly contested issue, where many stakeholders intend to deny the existence of such an issue. This case study will get as deep as possible in such a complex issue 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.). Also local, national and international policy regulation would be included in the analysis to be able to establish a link between them and the socio-economic changes in the territory (sub-side, environmental regulations, tariffs, etc.)
The analysis will help to identify key leverage points to improve the sustainability of agricultural trade, providing policymakers with a systemic view of the situation that goes beyond the value chain, highlighting politically and socially relevant issues such as land grabbing, water grabbing, land-use changes and displacement of smallholders, deforestation and biodiversity loss in environmentally sensitive areas.
The case study will shed light on the soybean-meat complex and its food system dynamics under a sustainability perspective by analyzing the multiple causal links between activities of the value chain, and the social, human, economic and environmental dimensions. The focus will be mainly on the production stage – assessing the links with the soybean production system that provides the main input to feed – but will go along the soy-meat value chain until the trade. This process of systemic analysis will help to create a common language and understanding among different stakeholders engaged regarding how the system is defined, the different pathways to improve it and the potential consequences of these pathways. The case study will then raise awareness among stakeholders on pathways for enhanced sustainability and provide them with solid arguments supported by technical and sociocultural evidence to influence decision-makers to advance food system reform towards enhanced sustainability, inclusion, and resilience with a focus on smallholder’s livelihoods.
Case Study Leader
Technical University of Madrid
Geographical Focus and Scale
Product and market focus
Soybeans-meat complex for European and Asian market
- Farmers and farmers’ organizations
- Input suppliers
- Public officers and policy makers
- Financial institutions
- Processors, traders and consumers