The Growth of Responsible Production, the Basis for Responsible Soy Sourcing
Much has been achieved so far, but much remains to be done; the production of sustainable soy at global scale is still a challenge and requires a holistic approach (social, environmental, economical). In this sense, producers are investing in new technologies, implementing good agricultural practices and personnel management policies, executing projects that have measurable impacts in the communities they live, as well as other decisions which will result in a more efficient and responsible use of economic, productive, social and environmental resources. The work that is taking place has a direct impact on the positioning of soy in the international market, which has increasing rigorous requirements regarding the quality of the products uptake. RTRS certification is a tool for producers to implement a holistic management approach and to fulfill the demand from importing countries focused on effectively implementing and achieving sustainability commitments.
Brazil is the largest soy producer in the world, and in 2017, it recorded the largest volume of certified hectares/tons, 83% of which was RTRS certified production. We are pleased to share some of the success stories and what has been accomplished to date.
In early April this year, the Valore Program led by Bayer has engaged and certified 6 producers with a total of 3,967 hectares of the Brazilian Comigo cooperative located in the state of Goiás, in all they delivered a total of 15,541 tons of certified soy.
One of these producers, Ricardo Vian, from Fazenda São Tomaz, believes that certification helps managers address various environmental, social and economic issues. “The certification program has helped us considerably to professionalize employees and qualifying the farm, and has also provided guidance on the storage and disposal of pesticides, among other benefits”, he says.
His experience is not unlike Produzindo Certo Programme (Produce Appropriately) that since 2015, with the technical support from Bayer, the NGO Aliança da Terra, Santander Bank and Unilever are working together to achieve responsible soy production in Brazil. If we consider the production regions of Uberlândia-MG and Rio Verde-GO, in the 3 years since the inception of the program, more than 742,000 tons of soy were certified in 61 farms.
Among them producer Adriano Barzotto, from Fazenda Segredo shares how he was looking for a way of improving his on-farm activities when he learnt about the benefits of the RTRS Certification. He is certain that “the certification is a tool and a bridge to international trade partners. Besides, the banking and trade industries perceive us as a more organized, cohesive group, focused on good practices. The future of modern farms is certification as it means having a quality seal”.
The Growth of Responsible Production
For producer Getúlio Feliciano, of Fazenda Santa Fé, in Uberlândia-MG, certification helps in increasing farm livelihood. “Our wealth is our soil. I believe that in the short-term, the market will demand certification as evidence that soy is produced caring for the environment and people. Certification provides the framework for the correct development of our activities. In the future, this will be what consumers demand”, he says.
The positive and relevant social impact of holistic sustainable approaches is other important aspect to highlight. RTRS certification covers 1% of the world’s soy and in Maranhão 20% of the area planted with soy is RTRS certified. It is worth noting that Maranhão remains one of the poorest and most deprived states in the country and ranks second-to-last in the country’s Human Development Index (HDI).
“The social differences in the northeastern states of Brazil, Maranhão and Piaui, where they grow soybeans, are immense” said the FAPCEN CEO and RTRS Executive Board Member, Gisela Introvini. “Encouraged by FAPCEN, producers from Maranhão and Piaui adhere to the RTRS certification; they are contributing to the communities around the farms, and they participate in projects that involve schools, machinery donations and equipment, agricultural inputs in addition to training people who work on rural properties. These regional initiatives have achieved a great increase in income and job creation” Introvini reflects.
FAPCEN is Group Manager of 2 Groups of 9 producers that together certified 519,818 tons of soy in 2017. There is no doubt that to achieve sustainable production, these initiatives must be consolidated to gain scale and be further developed throughout the state.
These are but a few of the stories, currently thousands RTRS certified producers are a testimony that confirms sustainability and the certification of sustainable practices are no longer a trend but a management tool that benefits growers and consumers.
Driving global change
The RTRS standard is an important tool for producers to improve management and expand their businesses, and to increase (exponentially) the volume of quality soy exported to international markets, which are becoming increasingly demanding about the quality of sourced products.
“The increase in RTRS certified production was welcome (29%), but with only an 8% increase in demand for certified soy that year, the urgent challenge now is to drive up demand”, stresses Marcelo Visconti, RTRS Executive Director. “A lot has been achieved but we know we should move at a much faster speed; and the speed depends on us. Global commitments must be turned into concrete and absolute steps to drive change”, concludes Visconti.