Chinese hunger is destroying the Amazon
The soya bean has become a major threat to the Amazon.
Soy is Brazil's boom crop and feeds China's other energy demand; the millions of kilocalories to fuel its workers growing appetite. Soy farming is clearing more forest than logging, cattle farming and mining. Since 1995, soya bean imports from Brazil have increased 10,685%. Soy exports are now worth, or more than a third of Brazil's sales volume to Beijing.
According to Ibama, the Brazilian state environmental agency, only 2% of the deforestation is authorised. But with only six inspectors to cover an area three times bigger than the UK, there is little they can do. "There is no such thing as sustainable management of forests. It is all predatory," said Nielson Vieira at Ibama's Santarem office. "All we can do is minimise the damage."
The soya barons are so convinced that demand will continue to grow that they are planning to clear millions more hectares. "We don't trust China as a partner," said Pio Stefanello, a plantation owner and Brazil's leading distributor of soya seeds. "But it is a huge contributor to growth. They are big consumers for everything."