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Cargill Agricola port for soy export, Brazil


Over the last few years Brazil has become the world second largest soy exporter, after the U.S.A. “In the 2014-2015 harvest it produced 95 million tons, 60.7 million of which were exported”. At the same time it ranks as the fifth highest CO2 emitter, resulting from deforestation and fires set in order to obtain land for cultivation.

In Santarem, a city of 180,000 inhabitants in the State of Para, at the confluence of the Amazon and the Tapajos River, the American multinational Cargill has built a port for the collection and transport of soy, a product previously not grown in the area. The port was built without the Environmental Impact Statement required by the Federal government. Peasants and indigenous communities oppose the port because it led to the development of soy monoculture and they fear deforestation and forced displacement.

In March 2007, the Brazilian Environmental Agency shuts down the port. The local communities, together with foreign supporting organizations kept mobilizing asking for the permanent closure of the port. Indeed, the State Secretary of Science and Technology imposed a temporary closure. The conditions for the reopening were for Gargill to submit and obtain the approval of an Environmental Impact Study of its port. The prosecutor in Santarem, Felipe Friz Braga, who raised the case, explains the reason for the suspension of activities imposed on the company: 'There is a frenetic increase in deforestation. Forests destroyed, communities expelled from their territories, both the results of pressure and violence perpetrated by economic concerns that have arrived in the region. All this because of the productive potential of the territory, which allows for intensive production of soybean'.

In 2010, Cargill communicates its port’s Environmental Impact Assessment  (EIA) where it used the results from the Greenpeace and PSA mapping of the area to argue in favor of the soy’s cultures “minimal social negative impacts” (see page 20 of the EIA).  Since 2006, Cargill, under its partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), pledges for a so-called greener soybean production in the Amazon, under the Soy Moratorium agreement.

 Finally in August 2012, the SEMA grants the US company its operating permit. Today the exportation capacities of the port keeps growing exponentially as the possibility for six new port’s terminals was considered in 2015. This situation is an important concern for the local inhabitants and local associations. As for instance, the new project for the construction of a port on the Maica Lake highly endangers the fishermen livelihood.  No matter how genuine are Cargill Soy Moratorium's intentions, the intensification of the port's activities contributes to the opening of the rainforest's fragile frontiers to greedy settlers.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Cargill Agricola port for soy export, Brazil
State or province:State of Para
Location of conflict:Santarem
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Soybeans
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In November 2003, Cargill built a container terminal for the access of large cargo ships loading and transporting the soybeans harvested each year.

Terminal’s storage capacity were expanded from 60,000 metric tons to 90,000 thousand metric tons after its reopening.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project20,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Cargill from United States of America
Companhia Docas do Para (CDP) from Brazil
Bunge from United States of America - Built the first installations, soon joined by Cargill
EMBRAPS - Is about to construct a new port in the green area neigbhourhood Maica Lake
Relevant government actors:Federal Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA), State of Pará Environmental Secretariat (SEMA), Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Companies, Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution (MPF)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace, Indigenous Community of Santarem - Brazil, association of Local Residents of the Perola Neighourhood of Maicá, MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) - Brazil, PSA (Projeto Sade and Alegria) - Brazil, Verdi Federation Party - Italy

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming
Potential: Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsThe massive use of pesticides risks the lives of local residents, especially children
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Potential: Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Project temporarily suspended
As a result of these protests, environmentalists and social movements obtained a two-year moratorium on the deforestation planned to ensure the cultivation of soybeans.
Proposal and development of alternatives:Demand the permanent closure of the port.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The IBAMA closed Cargill's port in 2007. But it reopened in 2012.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

'O Brasil est nu! O avano da monocultura da soja, o grao que cresceu demais', FASE, 2006

B. Baletti, Saving the Amazon? Sustainable soy and the new extractivism, Environment and Planning A 2014, volume 46, pages 5–25

Cargill - Eating up the Amazon, Greenpeace Report, May 2006

The impact of the Cargill soybean terminal in the Amazon town of Santarém, Dutch Soy Coalition, Case Study 2, 2008

Cargill's port Environmental Impact Assessment, 2010 (in Portuguese)

Movimiento Sem Terra

Greenpeace Brasil

Official website Cargill

PSA: Saude e Alegria, regional NGO

Criticisms of Cargill

Cargill’s Santarém port terminal gets operating permit, Cargill website, 06/08/2012

Cargill's controversial soya shipping facility in the Amazon is shut down, Greenpeace, 24/03/2007

Brazil’s Amazon River Ports Give Rise to Dreams and Nightmares, IPS, 11/12/2015

Responsible Soy in South America, The Nature Conservancy and Cargill

Movimento Tapajos Vivo

Пристанище Каргил Агрикола за износ на соя, Бразилия (Cargill Agricola port for soy export, Brazil), Friends of the Earth Russia, 14/02/2015

Brazil shuts down Cargill's Amazon port, 03/26/2007

Other comments:In 2010, Era Maggi Scheffer from Mato Grosso has plans to invest R$ 50 million ($25 million) to build a grain terminal in the port of Santarm.

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:448



"The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is pushed away by Cargill's facility ship during a protest against the company's illegal soya port in the Amazon rainforest"

Greenpeace International

Greenpeace activists blocking Cargill port, May 2006

Friends of the Earth Russia / Greenpeace Picture

Cargill’s port on the banks of the Tapajós River under operation in 2015

Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS