Trade is a two-way street and the UK agricultural sector will benefit from increased trade with Brazil, according to a Brazilian official.
In February, a summit held in London highlighted the opportunities for agritech to strengthen UK-Brazil trade ties. Defra’s Head of Environmental Land Management, Gavin Ross, drew parallels between the ‘great progress being made in Brazil to recover 90 million hectares of degraded pasture’ and the UK’s shift to paying farmers for public goods.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian the Brazilian official emphasised, contrary to reports, Brazil would not be looking for changes to the UK laws banning imported hormone treated beef, as they were not authorised on Brazilian livestock.
“Increased trade in agricultural products between Brazil and the UK will benefit both countries,” the official said.
In 2019, Brazil opened the market for UK fish exports with restrictions lifting for exports of poultry, live poultry and poultry genetics, and genetic material for pigs and ovine.
“Trade is a two-way street. We trust the UK has also much to gain from trade with Brazil. Currently, the UK imports half of the food and beverage it consumes. It can import it from the EU or from other rich countries, or it can import it from a developing country, like Brazil.”
Looking at what the UK could learn from Brazil in its period of transition, the official said Brazilian agriculture had been built on technology.
“The Brazilian Government has never subsidised agricultural production in any meaningful way. Rather, Brazilian agriculture has historically relied on robust investments in research and innovation to develop technologies suited to our own soil and climate conditions.
“This has allowed us to increase yields, while saving land and inputs. The main lesson to be learned is that, in agricultural sustainability, technology is a powerful ally.”
He highlighted Brazil was utilising practices including no-till, integrated crop-livestock-forest production systems, agroforestry, biological nitrogen fixation, animal waste treatment and forest planting to reduce emissions, reduce the strain on natural resources and boost biodiversity.
Looking at N fixation, he said Brazilian soyabeans were fertilised with N from the atmosphere.
“The natural symbiosis between leguminosae plants with bacterias rhizobium, which allows absorbing N from the air, were escalated to a commercial dimension.
“This has obviated the need for N fertilisers in soya, which are derived from petroleum and require energy to manufacture. In this time of war and high prices for gas and fertilisers, technologies like this make much more sense.”
The official also added there was room for the UK to be more ambitions in its policy on biofuels following the move to E10 petrol.
“Currently, ethanol accounts for 46 per cent of all fuel utilised in transportation in Brazil. The majority of Brazilian automobiles are flex-fuel, meaning that they can run either on petrol, which contains 27 per cent ethanol or on ethanol (E100), which can be mixed at any rate in the car’s tank.”
It was also highlighted many European countries used E85.
Deforestation was also still a serious problem in Brazil but the official insisted agri-sustainability was a priority and Brazilian agriculture should not be associated with deforestation.
According to WWF, 94 per cent of Brazilian deforestation is illegal.
“From a net-food importer in the 1970s, Brazil has become one of the world’s leading agricultural exporters thanks to heavy investments in technology and innovation,” added the official.
Two thirds of Brazilian territory is covered with native vegetation, an area 23 times the size of the UK, compared to 2 per cent of UK territory.
“Brazil’s environment legislation is arguably the strictest in the world,” the official said, adding Brazilian farmers preserved 218mha of land at their own expense with 80 per cent of every private property in the Amazon required to be kept with forest or other native vegetation.
In Brazil, there has much debate over what has been dubbed the ‘poison package’, a Bill being pushed through Government relaxing pesticide laws.
But the official said Brazilian pesticide regulation was one of the most rigorous in the world and the Bill would not change the process but reduce the amount of time taken for approval of new pesticides, allowing farmers to access new technologies sooner.