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Brazil’s leather production has a negative impact on the environment, with China the main buyer of the product.

Brazil’s leather production has a negative impact on the environment, with China the main buyer of the product.

Leather Production in Brazil Affects the Environment, with China as Main Buyer of the Product

By Andra Barretto/Dilogo
January 19, 2022

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The majority of leather from Brazil is exported, or around 80 percent. China is the main purchaser, purchasing more than 27 per cent of the material. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, the issue is that of the five states that supply rawhide. This is the first stage of leather-making. Three of these are located in the Amazon: Par and Rondnia.

The Amazon region’s shift in cattle ranching has led to leather manufacturing. According to IBGE in 2020, Par and Rondnia ranked among the top two states in Brazil for cattle herd growth. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (British National Institute for Space Research), Par, Rondnia, Mato Grosso, and Rondnia topped the deforestation rankings for the Legal Amazon in 2021. Par alone is responsible for 5,257 km of devastation.

According to a study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States, cattle ranching is a major contributor to deforestation. This non-governmental organization was founded by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Brazil’s leather manufacturing countries are also leaders in deforestation. (Photo: Operation Green Brazil/17)

Large global fashion companies stopped buying Brazilian leather in late 2019. They claimed that there was no way to ensure that it did not harm the environment. Brazil’s government claimed that Brazil’s leather industry was sustainable, citing the requirement for sustainability certifications from tanneries. However, experts in environmental management say it is difficult to track the supply chain.

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There are often several stages of leather processing between the first farm and the final retail store. These stages are performed by different companies from different countries. Brazil production can involve complex elements such as real estate speculation or corruption, according to Christina MacFarquhar, Global Canopy, an U.K.-based non profit whose goal it is to provide market data about potentially environmentally harmful activities.

China is not only the largest leather importer, but also the world’s largest beef exporter. According to data from Abrafrigo, the Brazilian meat-packers organization (in Portuguese), China purchased 56 percent of Brazilian beef exports between September 2021 and September 2021.

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