From: Reuters
Published June 3, 2008 09:30 AM

Brazil minister says Amazon trend worrying

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's newly appointed environment minister drew a bleak picture of the Amazon rain forest's future on Monday, saying the latest figures for deforestation in April were worrying and that this year would likely be worse than last.

"The worst is to come. Now is the test," Carlos Minc told reporters, noting the period with the highest deforestation was historically from June to September when farmers prepared for planting by burning ground cover.

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"I think it will be very difficult to have a number below that of last year's," he said.

Minc was speaking after data showed 433 sq. miles of forest were lost in April, up from 56 sq. miles in March. The sharp rise was partly explained by the fact there had been much more cloud cover obstructing satellite pictures in March.

About 2,700 square miles of the forest was lost between August and December last year, coinciding with a rise in global food prices and marking a sharp annualized increase after three years of declines.

Minc, a founder of the Green Party in Brazil, said the government was taking steps to clamp down on deforestation, including seizing cattle grazing on unauthorized land.

"The data is worrisome," he said "Time is short, the measures are right, there hasn't been time for them to bear fruit."

He took over last month when Marina Silva, who was widely seen as a defender of the Amazon, stepped down citing an inability to carry out her agenda.

Environmental groups have expressed concern that Minc will put up less resistance than Silva to powerful industrial and agricultural lobbies that want to develop the world's largest forest, which has shrunk by about a fifth since the 1970s.

Minc said high global food prices were one reason for latest spike in deforestation.

"The price of beef and soya has spiraled. There is a strong correlation between the price of beef and soya and deforestation. This is historically proven in Brazil," Minc said.

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