In Brazil's Amazon, Cargill grain ports face local resistance

In Brazil’s Amazon, Cargill grain ports face local resistance

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Land ownership in the Brazilian Amazon is a constant source of disputes, with speculation and “grabbing” of public or communal land – often for infrastructure development, agriculture or mining – linked to deforestation and indigenous grievances.

A 2005 entry in Brazil’s Federal Official Gazette stated that Xingu Island, including the plot of land acquired by Cargill, was designated as a community agricultural and forest reserve called PAE Santo Afonso.

Local people said that as well as using this land to plant crops and collect wood, seeds and fruits, they also fish from three lakes called Piri.

“When I was a kid and my parents were young, we went there in December to catch fish (and) shellfish,” said Cleonis Araujo Cavalheiro, 70, who was born and raised in the area. “We came back with baskets full.”

But Piri is now partly surrounded by fence posts.

In a 2022 court response to the lawsuit, Cargill said it had signed an agreement with port developer Bric Logistica in 2015, committing it to buy the area where it wants to build its port.

Notary registries and Cargill’s response show that the government officially sold the land to BRIC Logistica in 2019 for approximately 1.38 million riyals. Within a year, Bric Logistica sold it to Cargill for 53.2 million reais.

Bric Logistica said official documents showed the land had been privately owned “for at least 60 years”. The company said that during that period it was used only by local people for agriculture or animal husbandry with the permission of those who controlled it.

Cargill said the acquired assets had already been sold privately before the land was designated as part of the PAE.

The US agribusiness giant is facing additional legal action over its planned Abatetubha port, which would be used to transport 9 million tonnes of cargo primarily from Brazil’s northern and midwestern regions through the Amazon as an alternative to saturated roads and southern Brazil. per year by boats transporting corn and soy. Port.

Last year, a Para state court ruled that islanders must be consulted as part of the port’s licensing process. In August, the case was transferred to the federal justice system, which has yet to rule on the issue, effectively halting the project.

Rosalina dos Santos Telles, a leader of the Bom Remedio “Quilombola” community on the island of Xingu, said its members live just a few kilometers from the planned port and “demand to be consulted”.

“In their (Cargill’s) environmental study, it’s as if there wasn’t one,” he said, showing a brochure outlining community protocols for consultation on projects that could impact it.

Cargill told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it had “left no stone unturned in engaging with all social actors related to the project”, and said it was complying with the environmental licensing process for the port terminal.

“We have not and will not build the terminal until all necessary permits have been obtained and we have consulted with local communities,” it said in a statement seen by Reuters after the criminal investigation was made public.

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