Brazilian coffee production may contribute to Beijing’s new green plans.

China should advance in the environmental sustainability agenda in the coming years. At least, it is what the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) of the country indicates. In practice, the document will serve as the Asian dragon’s flight plan in the post-pandemic world.

It is a fact that the decarbonization of the economy will be the main point on the Chinese climate agenda. The goal is to peak emissions in 2030 – the midway point to the challenge of neutralizing them by 2060.

But the challenge in the energy matrix should impact other sectors. For example, the eventual alignment of the food security policy of the largest population on the planet with the green agenda will result in opportunities and challenges for countries that export agricultural commodities.

Brazil should watch for the new signals from Beijing. The combination of agriculture and the environment could attract foreign investments to the country in the coming years. Two Chinese authorities went straight to the point in an online event of the China-Brazil Business Council last May 21st.

The Chinese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Tang Renjian, highlighted that the “conservation of arable land, recycling of resources, climate change and biodiversity” should guide new technical partnerships in sustainable agriculture with Brazil.

China’s ambassador in the country, Yang Wanming, spelled out the appetite of Asian funds in Brazil: sustainable agriculture.  He also highlighted the growing interest of Chinese consumers in organic food and sustainable production systems.

Brazilian coffee growing is ready to cooperate with the transition of Chinese society towards a more sustainable model. From the search for products with positive carbon balances to green finance, the sector is a natural candidate to expand its share in this market, where the environmental agenda will help boost consumption in the post-pandemic period.

From good agricultural practices to the commitment of the export trade with socio-environmental criteria, numerous factors make Brazilian coffee a meeting point among China’s main demands in food imports – health safety, quality of raw material, production scale, and sustainability.

The most recent example is between parallels 10 and 14 South and meridians 60 and 64 West – a region that won the Denomination of Origin (DO) of Matas de Rondônia last June 1st.

Economic inclusion of local communities and forest preservation make up the landscape of coffee plantations integrated into agroforestry systems. The new D.O. consolidates the isolated leadership of coffee in the ranking of geographical indications of the National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). These registrations prove the country’s capacity to supply agribusiness with batches of coffee with specific characteristics from each producer region.

The maintenance of native vegetation areas within coffee farms and the adoption of good agricultural practices also reduce the so-called carbon footprint of the national coffee industry.

The complementarities between the new five-year plan and coffee in Brazil do not stop there. The Chinese market is among the commercial priorities of the sector in Brazil. Coffee shipments to the Asian country closed in 2020 with an increase of 12% compared to the previous year, but there is still much room for growth.

To this end, the Brazilian Coffee Exporters Council (Cecafé) is preparing a campaign to inform young consumers in China about the sustainability of Brazilian coffee growing. The initiative should reach the country’s coffee shops in the second half of 2021.

The calculation of the carbon balance in coffee-growing is another Cecafé initiative that appeals to the new generations of consumers who are attentive to the planet’s health. In partnership with the academic community and civil society, Cecafé has just approved a scientific study that will measure the greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration in coffee production in the Cerrado, Matas, and the South of Minas Gerais regions.

Based on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change methodology, the study will serve as a scientific foundation for new export trade actions in the sustainable development agenda. The results should be published by the end of 2021.

Back to the heading of this article, it is with the synergy between economic development and respect for the environment that the Brazilian coffee industry will be able to contribute to Beijing’s green goals in the coming years.

Thiago Masson
Cecafé’s Sustainability Coordinator