Forest area is increasing in Europe, mainly because farms are getting fewer and smaller. This should be good news, but it must be put into perspective alongside the loss of forest that the European Union’s growing agricultural imports cause in third countries. We call this “imported deforestation”.

The European Union is the world’s main trader in agricultural products with imports totalling €142 billion in 2020. These imports include commodities such as palm oil, beef, cocoa, coffee and soya which are responsible for deforestation in the countries that produce them.

The EU case is not unique. At the global level, tropical areas are losing forests at a rate of 10 million hectares per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s latest report on forest resources and temperate areas, which are gaining forest area at a rate of 5 million hectares per year.

Of the 10 million hectares of forest lost each year, just under two-thirds can be unambiguously attributed to agricultural expansion, with the remaining third being a combination of forest fires, logging and other factors. About one-third of the forest area lost is linked to international trade. By fighting against imported deforestation, it is, therefore, possible to make a significant difference in total tree loss worldwide.

Acknowledging its role in imported deforestation, the…

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