Is Latin America ready to export "deforestation-free"?

European cooperation on forest protection goes hand in hand with the preparation of deforestation-free certification systems. Is Latin America prepared for the new regulations that will come into force in December?

European cooperation to protect forests in Latin America goes hand in hand with technical assistance in preparation for the entry into force of the first provisions of EU Regulation No. 1115 in December 2024, with the aim of preventing them from being placed on the market European raw materials that cause deforestation.

These include cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soybeans and timber. There are only 6 companies that do this, but the possibility that their products will not be able to enter the European market has caused outrage in agricultural exporting countries.

"Resolution 1115 has caused a lot of noise in Paraguay and other countries that export agroindustrial products"explains Matteo Sirtori, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation in Paraguay. “It is important to emphasize that Paraguay is an exporting and agribusiness country with its clear economic importance, as well as a very important political influence: this is why we have started a long-standing dialogue to clarify the scope of the regulations and clarify some technical issues.”. Sirtori continued.

A correct and controversial decision

While the European Union takes responsibility for its own consumption through deforestation-free regulations and wants to prevent deforestation around the world, certification is a barrier for exporting countries. Latin American producing countries have called this regulation “green protectionism.”

How are regulations implemented in Paraguay? “There are very different opinions; There are very important points of view in the private sector and others who understand that it is necessary to follow these principles. Not because the EU imposes them, but because the market demands: more sustainable development, more transparency, more traceability"continued the expert, recalling that this regulation has been discussed for a long time. On the part of civil society, environmentalists have been demanding this type of regulation for decades.

Does Regulation 1115 worry exporting countries like Costa Rica? Less than others. “Costa Rica has been free of deforestation for more than 15 years. Despite this, the Costa Rican export sector has had to prepare for its entry into force, given the challenges it will represent," explains Sylvia van der Laat, from the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica and special envoy for European aircraft.

Furthermore, as part of a pilot project implemented by the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the CooperTarrazú cooperative, the first exports of coffee were made on March 14. coffee "free deforestation" on the Italian market.

According to the UNDP, "The proposed methodology developed is intended to represent a novelty for the country and can be extended to other products and value chains that can also guarantee that they are free of deforestation when entering the European market.". Costa Rica is accompanying this process through a technical team that includes the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock, Environment and Energy, and Foreign Trade. The objective is to avoid disturbances in existing trade flows.

Can I export models from Costa Rica to Paraguay? “There are many models and each country develops its own model to ensure traceability. Here we will take a closer look at what they are doing in Argentina and Brazil, their neighboring countries”Sirtori responded.

The national platform ViSeC (Sectoral Vision of the Argentine Gran Chaco), which brings together actors in the soybean value chain to reduce environmental impact, will be the path that Paraguay chooses, adapting it to the local reality. “Thanks to this system, Argentina, which exports a lot to Europe, is beginning to send 100% deforestation-free soybeans”Sirtori added.

It is worth remembering that the six raw materials to which rubber is added are responsible for 58% of global deforestation related to agriculture. A third of all these raw materials are destined for the European market. If no action is taken, deforestation will increase by approximately 248.000 hectares per year by 2030.

Global trend

"Regulations should be developed in accordance with global sustainable development trends. There are now European regulations; There is a similar law in England; This is being discussed in the United States.”Sirtori continued.

And if there is a transition period, it is likely that there will be "free deforestation" in countries that export agricultural products to the EU and other less demanding markets as has occurred so far. Sirtori emphasized that the private sector is the one that is increasingly less willing to buy products that are controversial and that could put the importer's image at risk.

For his part, "Costa Rica believes it is time to reap the benefits of the last 30 years of investment in environmental issues and the fight against deforestation", stated Van der Laat, concluding that “This has allowed the country to go from a forest cover of a little more than 30% of its territory at the beginning of the 90s, to more than 60% in 2024.".

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