Growing demand for soy throughout the world continues to result in deforestation and associated negative impacts including greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and destruction of natural habitats. However, it is recognised that expansion of agricultural production can take place without the need for further clearing of natural vegetation, but for this to happen, incentives for farmers are required.
To help achieve this, Waitrose, in collaboration with Tesco and Sainsbury’s, is supporting and funding the establishment of an innovative new initiative called the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF) and its inaugural fund, designed to promote the production and trade of deforestation and conversion-free soy in the Brazilian Cerrado region – one of the world’s most biodiverse and at-risk savannah ecosystems.
Launched in August 2022, and in a first of its kind approach, the RCF provides financial incentives for farmers in the Cerrado, through low-interest loans, to fund the purchase of agricultural inputs, for example, fertiliser and seeds, for the soy planting season. To be eligible for the RCF Programme, farmers must meet certain criteria focused on the protection of native vegetation in addition to legal requirements, with the results monitored by satellite.
The initiative has been designed to demonstrate the ability to produce soy whilst helping to protect vast tracts of native vegetation and promote zero-deforestation supply chains. After a year, it’s planned that the RCF will be scaled up to include hundreds of farms across Brazil, and hopefully many more thereafter.