May 2022 – The Atlantic Forest and the industry linked with the agribusiness sector, in general, move in opposite directions in people’s imaginary world. And, as a matter of fact, the expansion of the planting areas had reflections on this relevant biome. However, the tobacco sector has a lot to celebrate this week: with a thriving industry and a system that links the farmers up with the ESG practices, preserves the Atlantic Forest and achieves expressive economic results.
“The industry is an integral part of the engine that drives the economy of the Country and, in the tobacco sector, the numbers are really significant. Flue-Cured tobacco production consumes wood for heating the curing barns. However, since 1978, way before the ESG framework was introduced, the sector has acted proactively, encouraging the integrated farmers to reforest their properties and preserve their native forests”, comments Iro Schünke, president of the Interstate Tobacco Industry Union (SindiTabaco).
Nowadays, the sector is self-sufficient in the cultivation of energy forests for the curing barns, especially with the use of eucalyptus trees. According to the latest survey conducted by the Tobacco Growers’ Association of Brazil (Afubra), the farms where tobacco is grown have a 25-percent forest cover, represented by 15% of native forests and 10% reforestation.
“We deal with the Atlantic Preservation matter in an innovative manner, through a unique agreement with the Ibama, in 2021, which sets forth the need to monitor the tobacco growing areas by satellite, and the inclusion of provisions that make it mandatory for the integrated farmers to use only wood from legal and sustainable origin”, Schünke recalls.
In 2019, the sector created a new initiative to strengthen the production of energy forests with tree species that grow rapidly, based on technical and scientific knowledge. The project ‘Initiative Pro-Forest Sustainability in Tobacco Farming’, maintained by the SindiTabaco in partnership with the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), tests and shares new technologies, genetic materials, highly productive tree species and energy performance in 21 demonstration fields in rural properties spread across 15 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul.
According to the coordinator of the project, Professor Dr. Jorge Antônio de Farias, this is one more step toward the consolidation of energy sustainability in tobacco farming. “The idea is to have the tobacco farmers transferring to their properties the knowledge acquired in the demonstration fields and reap the benefits of a sustainable tobacco crop. Besides becoming financially and energetically self-sufficient they also preserve the remnants of the natural forests”, he adds.
“Just like what happens at industry level, in which all processes are tested and adapted with an eye on the best results, the tobacco farmers should equally seek the necessary knowledge that helps them preserve their farms and make high profits”, Schünke emphasizes. The practices tested in the demonstration fields were compiled in videos available at canal do SindiTabaco on Youtube.
Watch the videos of the project
ACTIONS AIMED AT FOREST SUSTAINABILITY IN TOBACCO FARMING
NUMBERS OF THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY – In Brazil, tobacco has generated upwards of R$ 14 billion in taxes a year, and in many tobacco growing municipalities – there are 508 in all -, these taxes represent more than half of total tax collections. In addition, 85% of the tobacco produced in Brazil is shipped abroad. In 2021, exports through the Brazilian ports amounted to 464,429 metric tons, bringing in revenue of US$ 1.464 billion. Despite logistic problems brought about by the pandemic (shortages of vessels and containers), the Brazilian crop was shipped to 105 countries, and the main destination was the European Union, with 40% of all tobacco exports. For 2022, the perspective, according to surveys conducted by the Deloitte Consultancy Firm, is for exports similar to 2021 but with higher values in dollar terms.
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