New Trase Yearbook highlights deforestation linked to exports of Brazilian soy

New analysis, from Trase, identifies the deforestation risks associated with the supply chain of one of the world´s most traded agricultural commodities – Brazilian soy, linking the companies and consumer countries to the regions where the soy is grown. [1]

The Trase Yearbook 2018, Sustainability in forest-risk supply chains puts the spotlight on the trade in Brazilian soy against a backdrop of growing global dependence on crops that are increasingly produced in just a few countries in the world.

Global soy production has increased from 27m tonnes in 1961 to 335m tonnes in 2016, with most soy used as a protein source for animal feed around the world. In 2016 soy exports were worth over US$20 billion to the Brazilian economy, with soy covering some 33 million hectares, an area the size of France.

The Trase Yearbook highlights how just six companies account for 57% of Brazilian soy exports. Taken together, the supply chains of these six traders are associated with two-thirds of the total deforestation risk directly linked to soy expansion, the majority of it in the Cerrado, one of the world’s most biodiverse savannahs. [2]

Using new data and interactive visualisations, the Trase Yearbook links the consumer countries buying Brazilian soy to the trading companies and to the areas where the soy was grown, showing the shifting patterns of soy production.

Toby Gardner, Trase lead and Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said:

“By identifying the sourcing patterns for specific traders and consumer markets for the whole of Brazil’s soy exports, Trase provides a powerful way of understanding the risks in commodity supply chains. It allows us to see which supply chains are linked to problems such as deforestation, and to identify opportunities to improve the sustainability of commodity production. This is crucial information for companies and governments wanting to improve supply chain sustainability, and meet zero-deforestation commitments”

China is the biggest market for Brazilian soy – buying 60% of Brazilian exports in 2016 – with imports linked to around half the soy-related habitat loss in Brazil. But the Trase Yearbook also shows that European countries are buying soy from areas where deforestation from soy is high, and where impacts per tonne of exports may be even higher than in China. [3]  

Some 10 million hectares of land is expected to be converted to soy in the next decade in Brazil, with much of this likely to be in the Cerrado.

The Trase Yearbook 2018 also explores the impacts of the zero-deforestation commitments made by some companies and European countries.[4] It finds that while these commitments offer great promise, as yet, there is little evidence of changes on the ground, with similar levels of deforestation risk for companies and countries with zero-deforestation commitments as for those without.

Arnaldo Carneiro Filho, Head of the Sustainable Supply Chain Programme and Trase lead at Global Canopy, added:

“Soy is an important sector for the Brazilian economy, and an important source of animal feed, but the need for agricultural land must be balanced with the need to retain critical forest and savannah habitats. The commitments made by some companies and countries are encouraging and reflect their awareness of the problem. Opportunities for sustainable production are there to be taken, and the public and private sectors need to work together to take advantage of them.”


[1] Trase Yearbook 2018, Sustainability in forest-risk supply chains: Spotlight on Brazilian soy is published by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy. See:

[2] The six biggest traders are Bunge, Cargill, ADM, Louis Dreyfus, Amaggi and COFCO.

[3] EU countries with levels of relative deforestation risk – ha per tonne - linked to imports of Brazilian soy that are higher those estimated for China are Portugal, Germany, Spain, France and Italy. However, in absolute terms the total deforestation risk linked to Chinese imports is much higher than any other country, accounting for approximately 50% of total deforestation risk linked to all of Brazil´s soy exports in 2016.

[4] The  New  York  Declaration  on  Forests,  signed  by  40  countries,  30  companies  and  27  financial  institutions  commits  to  eliminate  deforestation  from  the  production  of  agricultural commodities  by  2020;  members  of  the  Consumer  Goods  Forumhave  committed  to  achieve  zero  net  deforestation  by  2020; and signatories of the Amsterdam Declaration have committed to work towards eliminating deforestation from agricultural commodity chains with European countries. Additionally, Cargill, Bunge and Amaggi have made commitments to zero deforestation.