Deforestation-free supply chains: agricultural production without forest destruction

One of the biggest drivers of forest destruction worldwide is the legal and illegal conversion of forests into farmland. This mainly affects forests in the tropics. To successfully protect forests internationally, agricultural commodities must be produced as sustainably as possible. This also means: without destroying forest areas.

The demand for palm oil, soya and cocoa in important consumer countries such as the U.S. and China but also the EU is considered an important driving factor, alongside domestic consumption in the producer countries and regions. For this reason, more and more companies are dedicating themselves to forest protection by committing themselves to exclusively buying “deforestation-free” certified agricultural commodities. Certification is usually based on recognised sustainability standards.

The BMEL (BMEL) supports such private sector initiatives, both abroad and within Germany. Successful approaches include:

The objective is to provide the agricultural sector in producer countries with more incentives to conserve forests and to promote a more sustainable, forest-conserving use of land. At the initiative of the BMEL, similar measures are also currently being discussed at the Forum for more Sustainable Protein Feed because Germany’s high demand for protein-rich feedingstuffs means that it has a high import rate for this agricultural commodity. A study conducted by the Thünen Institute shows that international certificates are also generally available for this. In light of the global forest decline, an important objective of all initiatives is to prevent not only illegal forest conversions, but also, if possible, those that have so far been completely legal, and to cultivate agricultural commodities on forest-free sites.

The BMEL initiatives are supplemented by programmes from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that support producer countries in developing deforestation-free supply chains and networking with customers from Germany and other consumer countries.

New York Declaration on Forests; Amsterdam Declaration

International declarations on forests

In the New York Declaration on Forests of September 2014, Germany, together with nearly 180 other governments, companies and representatives of civil society committed itself, among other things, to eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of global agricultural commodities by 2020.

The Amsterdam Declarations of December 2015 concern the promotion of sustainable supply chains for agricultural commodities as well as sustainability with respect to palm oil. As part of the Amsterdam Partnership, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, France and Italy have come together as pioneers in the field of deforestation-free supply chains. The partnership supports cross-border initiatives on palm oil, cocoa and soy as well as the sharing of knowledge.

Belgium and Spain joined the initiative in 2020, and are now also involved in supporting these goals.

Germany’s measures are also embedded in political objectives at international and EU level. For example, Germany is a founding member of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership (see info box), which was initiated in 2015. For the German chairship of the body (1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020), the BMEL has selected the tagline “Deforestation-free supply chains – let’s deliver!” The partnership’s joint activities are aimed at supporting palm oil, cocoa and soya initiatives with partners in deforestation hotspots and committed industry representatives and thus eliminating deforestation from agricultural supply chains.

The latest example of this is an open letter to Brazil from September 2020 in which, in view of the once again increasing deforestation in the Brazilian rainforsts, the signatory countries of the Amsterdam partnership called upon the Brazilian government to combat deforestation and, together with all stakeholders, secure sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains for agricultural commodities.

The EU is also taking action

After repeated urging by the members of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership, on 23 July 2019 the EU Commission presented the Communication on “Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests”. In this Communication, the EU Commission essentially follows the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership’s preparatory work and proposes concrete measures both by the Member States and by the Commission itself.

The Council and member states are supporting the EU Commission in finding ways to avoid “imported” forest destruction. As part of this, in their conclusions with political guidelines from 16 December 2019, the Council and member states demanded further action from the EU and called upon the Commission to immediately implement measures within the scope of the European Green Deal together with the member states, industry, organisations and institutions, civil society and partner countries. Appropriate proposals are currently being developed, based on new demand-side regulatory and non-regulatory measures. These measures include the sensitisation of consumers, commitments from industry and collaboration with the producer countries.

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