Brasil Wire | 12 February 2021
Brazil and Britain sign "Poison Memorandum"
by Nathalia Urban
Brazil and the United Kingdom created a joint committee to facilitate the relationship in agribusiness. Authorities from the countries will work together in bilateral consultations on issues related to trade in agricultural goods and establish a forum for debates on the interests of both countries, including potential trade arrangements.
The Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of the Joint Agriculture Committee (CCA) Brazil United Kingdom was signed on Thursday, by the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, and Secretary of State George Eustice, of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Pacific and Environment Zac Goldsmith of the United Kingdom.
The Brazilian minister said: “We understand that, at this first moment, the United Kingdom will continue to adopt many of the European parameters, including sanitary and phytosanitary. But we expect that, over time, without abandoning its high standards, the United Kingdom, in its technical regulations, will become more aligned with international rules, closer to science-based approaches”.
The CCA should also facilitate discussion and collaboration on agricultural issues between the nations, such as agricultural and food trade, and access to markets; regulations and technical certifications relevant to agricultural materials; food security and food security measures; sustainability of agricultural production; research and innovation in the area of agriculture and supply, and international sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
Brazilian agribusiness exports to the United Kingdom grew 5% in value, in the 2019/2020 comparison, rising from US $ 1.031 billion to US $ 1.087 billion.
The main agricultural products exported in 2020 were mainly: soybeans – US $ 220.9 million, poultry (chicken and turkey) – US $ 204.4 million, fruits such as melons, grapes, watermelons, guavas and mangoes – US $ 138 , 6 million, food preparations and preserves of bovine origin – US $ 96.1 million, coffee – US $ 96 million, sugar – US $ 57.4 million and ethyl alcohol – US $ 27.4 million.
The main products imported by Brazil from the United Kingdom last year were whisky, which reached US $ 55.7 million, and gin with US $ 8.7 million. Together, these drinks represented 60% of British agribusiness exports to Brazil, which were US $ 107.8 million.
The UK imports more than 50% of the food it consumes, and around 70% of the products come from the EU. Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed between the United Kingdom and the European Union in December, the simple fact of the mutual imposition of sanitary and phytosanitary checks at the borders favors the competitiveness of Brazilian products.
The Brazilian government celebrated the fact of the post Brexit that favored Brazil was the UK’s decision to deregulate some fruits, which no longer require Phytosanitary Certification, and the creation of the Autonomous Tariff Quota, with zero tariff for 260 thousand tons of raw cane sugar, increases the positive expectation for the sector. It is estimated that Brazil should occupy a large part of this quota.
Health and hazard
Tereza Cristina, is aptly known in Brazil as “the queen of poison” due to the fact that since she took the office in Bolsonaro’s government is breaking a record on the approval of pesticides.
Brazil is not only the world’s champion in pesticides consumption (more than US$10 billion annually), but according a Mongbay report also the largest buyer of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) — a United Nations designation for agrochemicals containing active ingredients with extremely acute toxicity, persisting in the environment and in organisms, and having chronic negative effects on human health and the environment, even with very low levels of exposure.
The Bolsonaro government has certified 32% of all pesticides sold in Brazil. In the year 2020 alone, we can count the liberation of 945 pesticides by the Brazilian government!
The European Parliament approved in October of 2020 a resolution that expresses opposition to the ratification of the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur due to concerns about the environmental policy of the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
Even though the EU has been finding issues to ratify a trade deal between Europeans and the Mercosur, the former British ambassador to Brazil, Vijay Rangarajan, said that a deal between The U.K. and the South American bloc “is one of the priorities of the British government for the post-exit scenario of the European Union”. “This intention is part of the regular talks with the Brazilian government,” he said during an interview to Revista Veja.
And this is hardly news, in 2016 The UK ambassador to Brazil, Alex Ellis, assured during a lecture at the Commercial Association of Rio de Janeiro, promoted by the Brazilian Center for International Relations (Cebri), that the country’s exit from the European Union block would open perspectives for expanding trade agreements with Brazil, including in the agricultural area.
Ellis, informed then that the UK will be more “open” in relation to a separate agricultural policy from the European Union.
The ambassador recalled that, in the agricultural area, the United Kingdom also has producers in Scotland and Northern Ireland “and we do not know how they will react” to an eventual policy of less protectionism.
The reality now, 5 years later is that British farmers are facing a tremendous challenge due to the pandemic and the newly installed bureaucracy, the National Farmers’ Union and the National Pig Association revealed that, since 1 January, no cattle, sheep or goats have left the UK for mainland EU markets.
The UK economy suffered a sharp drop in the months of March and April of 2020, with a reduction of about 20%, recovering slowly, but without reaching the previous levels of economic activity. Despite all the difficulties of the year 2020, Brazilian agribusiness managed to grow 5% in the British market.