Brazil agriculture minister calls Amazon soy moratorium 'absurd'

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias speaks during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias has criticized a 2008 commitment from the country’s grain traders not to buy oilseed from land cleared in the Amazon rainforest known as the soy moratorium.

Dias told journalists on Tuesday the pact was “absurd” and argued that strict laws governing where grains can be grown were sufficient to protect the Amazon, whose preservation is considered important to control emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The soy moratorium is a private affair between private parties. I think it is absurd, we have ... means to show where our soy is produced and if it can be produced there,” Dias said in an interview in the southern state of Paraná.

Brazil’s forestry code is already strict about use of land in the region, she said, allowing farmers to use up to 20% of the land for agriculture.

Farming group Aprosoja Brasil is intensifying a lobbying effort to end the moratorium and says that it has the support of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

Abiove, the Brazilian umbrella group for oilseeds crushers, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Abiove head André Nassar on Monday reiterated that the association remains committed to the moratorium, which he called the only tool at traders’ disposal to monitor the use of deforested areas in the Amazon for grain cultivation.

Last week, Brazil canceled a 10-year-old ban on sugarcane cultivation in the Amazon and central wetlands.

The government said the decision, signed by Bolsonaro and the ministries of economy and agriculture, was taken because the 2009 decree was obsolete and other regulatory instruments, such as the new forest law and the RenovaBio program, were more efficient for this type of oversight.

Reporting by Roberto Samora and additional reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu, Gabriel Araujo and Marcelo Teixeira; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall