Transitioning to more sustainable, low-emissions agriculture in Brazil

Transitioning to more sustainable, low-emissions agriculture in Brazil

Sustainability, traceability, and branding for final consumers have been a component of market development of coffee for two decades in Brazil, but only just started in the beef sector. Sustainability initiatives for coffee have enjoyed high price premiums and support from cooperatives to make this possible. Efforts in the cattle and beef sector are more recent and still in a pilot phase.

Key findings:

Cattle:

  • cattle producers joined sustainability initiatives primarily to increase production, reduce production costs, learn new practices and access innovations, and because of their interest in sustainability
  • farmers who shifted to sustainable intensification practices increased their productivity. Some also accessed new markets and a minority earned higher prices
  • producers sought farming advice mostly from nearby farmers and technicians promoting sustainability initiatives
  • the cost of changing farm practices, insufficient technical assistance or capacity, and difficulty in complying with legal standards were the major barriers preventing other cattle producers from participating in sustainability initiatives
  • the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per kg of beef of cattle farmers in sustainable intensification programs were 18% lower compared to neighboring farms not in the programs
  • early life-cycle cattle ranching (e.g. calving, early rearing), commonly associated with deforestation, has been more engaged with NGO initiatives providing support and agronomic outreach rather than formal standards and reporting

Coffee:

  • coffee farmers joined a certification program because of requests from buyers, potential for receiving price premiums on their coffee, and to access new markets with certified products
  • coffee farmers producing certified coffee increased their economic efficiency, mainly due to higher productivity, compared to before they certified
  • coffee producers' connections to technicians and access to information mostly revolved around their participation in cooperatives

Policy recommendations:

  • build on market development lessons from the coffee sector to enhance sustainability, quality, traceability, and branding in the cattle sector
  • expand sustainability initiatives’ capacity to deliver market access, technical assistance, and finance services to more cattle farmers
  • continue support to producers in sustainability initiatives over multiple years, as they are likely to increase the sustainability of their practices with time
  • expand agronomic outreach and sustainability initiatives to calving and early rearing operations to reduce associated deforestation and GHG emissions
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