THE FIRST Latin American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit was hosted in Sao Paulo and highlighted some of the major sustainability challenges faced by the regional food industry.
140 senior executives from across the food industry discussed sustainability issues over the 2-day summit. There were calls to develop local markets for sustainable foods in the region, as well as prevent the increase in sustainability schemes.
Vanusia Noguiera, Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association, highlighted the challenges of sustainable coffee production and marketing. Although Brazil was the largest coffee producer in the world, exporters were experiencing many marketing issues.
According to Noguiera, Brazil had more environmental regulations than other coffee producer countries, however, some international buyers associated Brazilian coffee to destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Raising domestic production levels was another issue according to Cassio Franco Moreira of the Brazilian Organic Coffee Association. Approximately one third of the Brazilian organic products market was supplied by imports.
Márcio Nappo from the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock, said beef production was no longer linked to deforestation. A sustainability scheme has been put in place that provides traceability of beef products from Amazon biomes. The industry estimates that Brazil would have to raise agricultural output by 40% to meet rising domestic and international demand.
Wal-Mart said zero waste, renewable energy and sustainable products were its key priorities. The retailer has made pledges to source sustainable soy, beef and wood in Brazil. Pão de Açúcar is focusing on marketing sustainable foods under its private label. Its Taeq brand is leading in terms of organic food sales. The supermarket has also introducing a reverse logistics program that removes packaging from waste streams.
Terracycle elaborated further on the possibilities of closed loops for packaging. The Brazilian wing of the American firm was setting up supply chains to collect packaging waste for use in new applications. Its national brigade program has collected 25 million pieces of garbage waste to make finished products.
Sustainability is high on the agenda for Brazilian food companies and retailers, however their priorities differ from those in other regions. Biodiversity, especially the preservation of the Amazon, is high on the sustainability agenda. Packaging, waste reduction, and renewable energy are also key sustainability issues. However, sustainable agriculture, food waste, local markets and transparency in supply chains are areas that warrant greater attention.
The sixth European Sustainable Foods Summit will be held in Amsterdam 5-6 June 2014.