Brazil won't complete rural registry to fight deforestation in 2019, but will still launch program

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil will have difficulty meeting a year-end deadline to complete a registry that matches all rural properties to their owners, a step in the fight against illegal deforestation, the country’s forestry director, Valdir Colatto, said on Wednesday.

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However, with all but five percent of rural properties recorded in the registry, known as CAR, the country will this month launch a program to integrate the data already available with its system for monitoring deforestation via satellite imaging, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

That will allow for the country’s environmental authorities to more easily match deforestation to rural property owners in order to then issue fines or take other action, the person said.

Brazil has sought to implement the CAR system since it revised deforestation rules in 2012 but has repeatedly delayed the deadline for property owners to register.

The system will now come online just after right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, a vocal critic of environmental fines, assumed office on Jan. 1.

While fines are a key tool for environmental agency Ibama to enforce the law, Bolsonaro has pledged to end what he calls “an industry of fines” he argues has run amok in the country.

In a controversial move, Bolsonaro moved the forestry service from the Environment Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry.

Colatto, a former congressmen and member of the agriculture voting bloc, now oversees forestry for the Agriculture Ministry, including the CAR system.

While some 95 percent of rural properties are already in the system, registering all of the remainder is a difficult task with much of the remainder in north and northeast of the country, Colatto told Reuters.

Those regions are generally poorer and less developed, with virtually all of the north of the country occupied by Amazon rainforest.

They may be able to reach 98 percent compliance this year, he said.

“Brazil is really big. It’s difficult for you to reach all of the country,” he said.

“Look its difficult. Because you have difficulty entering into contact with all the people and all the landowners. But we’ll pursue this (goal).”

As an incentive to register, property owners that do not enter into the system will no longer be eligible for bank financing, Colatto said.

Reporting by Jake Spring