Round Table on Responsible Soy Association

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RTRS Newsletter

Latest news and updates on responsible soy :
Soy in Bolivia and its challenges on the road to responsibility

August 1, 2012


By Agustin Mascotena

Last week I first came into direct contact with the Bolivian reality and its soy chain.


The impact is high when coming in touch with both the city and the productive and industrial sectors related to soy or soya, as it is called in Bolivia. This is due not only to the temperature difference (from  5ºC in Buenos  Aires to 30ºC in Santa Cruz in three hours), but also to the positive effects on Bolivia’s macro and microeconomics. Progress and growth can be felt all around the country as well as an enabling environment for innovation and changes.


In spite of this, when climbing the highest towers of the city, smoke coming from burning fields can be seen on the horizon as a result of clearing and expanding areas for growing soy or other crops such as coca, which is spreading rapidly.


Santa Cruz is a case study because of the progress and success achieved by Bolivian and foreign migrants who have moved there in recent years and who have become successful farmers. Migrations of poor small-scale producers from other Bolivian regions who are nowadays thriving farmers in Santa Cruz are commonplace.


Bolivian production has some important economic advantages such as subsidized diesel,  differentiated tariffs for the Andean Pact countries (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia) as well as bilateral trade agreements with Venezuela (former member of the Pact). The climate is mild for growing soy and other crops, enabling rotation of more than one crop a year.  Although increasing, price discounts off Chicago prices are currently around US$100, which places Bolivian farmers in an advantageous position over their Argentine neighbors, who have up to 35% deductions from  their prices as export duties (soy at  US$640 = US$224).


Disadvantages of the Bolivian system:

  • its logistics: it is a landlocked country and the triangulations to reach the countries of destination raise costs
  • legal instability: laws frequently change and land tenure is not a long-term guarantee, especially for foreign and larger scale producers
  • sale options for producers are not as high as in other neighboring countries
  • its target markets are not the big market “players” (China and Europe), although this can also be seen as an advantage
  • although they are currently in a good situation, there is a large number of small producers who lack organization and insertion. There are also successful cases of producer cooperatives (e.g., in the Okinawa region)
  • there is contradiction between productive expansion policies and environment preservation (natural, social, cultural, etc.)




Within this framework, my visit mainly focused on participating in a forum organized by IBCE (Instituto Boliviano de Comercio Exterior – Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute) and ANAPO (Asociación de Productores de Oleaginosas y Trigo Boliviana – Bolivian Association of Oilseed and Wheat Producers) on responsible soy production and the RTRS approach.


agustin mascotena












Agustín Mascotena speaking at the Forum “Responsible soy production in Mercosur and Bolivia: RTRS Standard”.


I was pleasantly surprised at the level of participation in the forum and the sector’s eagerness to acquire knowledge. Bolivia is undoubtedly a breeding ground for the RTRS to continue implementing the  programs led by ANAPO, IFC (International Finance Corporation), Solidaridad and other local agents.




Bolivian producer


The major difficulty in keeping the degree of self-sufficiency required by continuous improvement models proposed by the RTRS is the connection with international markets, which currently demand certified soy or, in the absence of this, local industries’ conviction that they need to work on sustainability if they want their own businesses to  survive and adapt. The RTRS Credit Trading Platform has indeed become a fundamental tool in this transition stage, making it possible to link these producers’ efforts with companies willing to support the transformation and conservation of those areas where the production / environment overlapping must be taken into account.

Summary of the 2nd HCVA Technical Working Group Meeting

July, 2012


The 2nd Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting of the RTRS Broad Scale Maps and HCV Guidance for Soy Expansion project was held in São Paulo, Brazil, on the 10th and11th of July. All participants of the TWG were present (a total of 15 participants, including the project coordinator, a member of the RTRS-staff and an assistant / student of consultants). There was also an observer from Profest present during the two days.


The objective of this TWG meeting was to develop and approve (by consensus) the first version of the RTRS mapping methodology and the initial guidelines for assessing local HCVA.


Daniel Meyer of RTRS, coordinating the HCVA technical group meeting


During the first part of the meeting a seminar session was held in order to share expertise, knowledge and information on a number of topics relevant to the development of the methodology that will guide the assessment for high conservation value areas (HCVA). The following subjects and presentations were made:

-High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA); IMAFLORA presented their experiences of the Brazilian forest sector (presented by David Escaquete, forest engineer and Head of IMAFLORA)


-Landscape indicators for High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA) (Professor Milton Cezar Ribeiro - Department of Ecology - UNESP Rio Claro)


-GIS for agricultural territory planning: Prospects for agricultural production with environmental sustainability (Professor Britaldo Soares-Filho - Coordinator of the Center for Remote Sensing - UFMG)


-Maps and priority areas for conservation defined by the Government of Brazil (Dr. Arnaldo Carneiro Filho - Director of Territorial Management from the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs of the Brazilian Government- SAE)



David Escaquete, engineer and certification coordinator from IMAFLORA



Prof. Milton Cezar Ribeiro, UNESP Rio Claro 


The seminar session ended with a 30-minute roundtable debate between the participants and the TWG members about how to develop this project and implement the methodology in order to produce the maps. The conclusions of the roundtable debate where used in the rest of the TWG discussions which were exclusively aimed at developing the methodology for the maps and the initial guidelines for assessment & mapping system HCVA. A consensual approach was used at this technical session, with emphasis on topics discussion and equitable representation. Furthermore, at the end of each technical session, participants resumed the outcomes and challenges and suggested solutions to the challenges, in order to make progress in the development of the methodology. The first version of the RTRS mapping methodology and the initial guidelines for assessing local HCVA was approved by consensus by the TWG during the afternoon at the second meeting day.


The key decisions made were:


- mapping areas of Amazonia, Cerrado and agricultural frontier and hotspot for production.


-four categories, its criteria and indicators; and initial adaptation of the Proforest HCVA guide


- Good practice guidelines for High Conservation Value assessments.

-A practical guide for practitioners and auditors - to the Brazilian reality.


Giovana Baggio of TCN


After the approval, an evaluation was done by each RTRS member about the risks and opportunities of the first version of the RTRS mapping methodology and the initial guidelines for assessing local HCVA.


The next meeting will take place in Brasilia 4-5th of September 2012 and that the first National Stakeholder Meeting would take place, also in Brasilia  on the 27th of September 2012.


Daniel Meyer

Project Manager

Evaluation meeting between the RTRS and certification bodies

May 2012

In the middle of last May, the RTRS invited all recognized and/or accredited certification bodies (in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil) and the Argentine Accreditation Body (OAA, by its acronym in Spanish) to a meeting whose objective was to evaluate the first year experience with the RTRS certification system.


 Working breakfast between the RTRS and certification bodies


The aim of the meeting was to learn and improve auditing practices as well as all those complex subjects involved in the certification process. In order to increase improvements, the focus of the meeting was then mainly placed on auditing techniques. One of the conclusions made was the intention to unify methodologies and to do so, work is being done on a base guide to perform audits.


The RTRS Technical Unit at a meeting with certification bodies


Moreover, following this meeting, the material for RTRS auditor training courses was revised, with an emphasis on good auditing techniques.

Case studies: an update of RTRS implementation

August 2012



After the first year of RTRS certifications and purchases/sales of RTRS credits through the Credit Trading Platform, we have interviewed several producers and credit buyers. These interviews were useful for  creating a series of case studies aiming at sharing the first RTRS certification–related experiences.


The companies involved are: Cytasa (Paraguay), FrieslandCampina (The Netherlands), Grupo Los Grobo (Argentina), India Soy Forum (India), Lucas Aernouldts (Brazil), Unilever (United Kingdom), Marks & Spencer (United Kingdom). Below you will find each company’s experience connected to this topic.


For download the RTRS case studies click here: RTRS case studies on certification and market

Strategic Gap analysis for responsible soy production

July 2012

The study “Soy Strategic Gap Analysis” identifies and analyses the obstacles preventing the adoption of better socio-environmental and agricultural practices in soy production in Brazil and Argentina in accordance with the RTRS criteria.


With this objective ICONE, with support and sponsorship provided by the IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) and IFC (International Finance Corporation), undertook field interviews with soybean growers as well as some public agencies and NGOs in the states of Mato Grosso, Paraná, and expansion areas in Brazil and in the Nucleo Zone and Northern provinces in Argentina. Also, in-depth interviews were carried out with traders and private associations. Regional workshops were held in the cities of Sao Paulo, Ponta Grossa, Sorriso and Buenos Aires in order to assess the results of the interviews, to add new data and to validate the conclusions.


To download the full study click here: Soy Strategic Gap Analysis

Responsible soy is a good investment for farmers

June 2012

There is a business case for soy producers both in Brazil and Argentina to comply to RTRS criteria for responsible soy farming. That is the conclusion of a recent study by KPMG commissioned by IDH in collaboration with IFC, WWF and FMO. Within 3 years producers can expect a positive return on their compliance investments.


To comply with the criteria of the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS), soy farmers in Latin America need to make significant investments. These includes one-off investments such as training in better agricultural practices, reforestation on their land, and putting in place a solid documentation system for usage of pesticides and fertilizer. There are also recurrent costs such as audits and certification fees.


The KPMG report shows that investments in voluntary certification can be compensated for within 3 to 4 years. The main benefits for the farmer come from a price premium (averaged at EUR 1.50 per ton of beans), from better terms for the purchase of inputs  and for the financing of their farm operations. There are also benefits related to yield increase. In other words, RTRS certified producers are recognized for their social and environmental efforts on top of legal requirements, by the various stakeholders in the soy complex.

Better relations with different stakeholders


There are also benefits which currently cannot be quantified such as positive impact on the environment due to the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices, better labor conditions, better community relations and access to the European markets and the effect of better management and documentation systems. ‘First movers’ that were interviewed for the case study in both Brazil and Argentina mentioned the advantages of having a better company because of well documented structure and procedures, getting a psychological boost from receiving the RTRS certificate and having a better relationship with different stakeholders in the supply chain. Some producers also believe that standards like RTRS will become business as usual within 5-10 years.

This is the first study that investigates the business case for farmers to comply to RTRS criteria.  Market circumstances such as demand, commodity prices, premiums, terms for input finance, as well as federal laws and regulations may change and influence the business case for soy farmers in Argentina and Brazil in the coming years. In a few years time this KPMG study may act as a baseline. As a development bank, the aim of FMO is to support good agricultural practices to feed a growing world population.


Download the KPMG report here

RTRS activities in the coming months

7 August 2012



The second half of 2012 has started, counting with a lot of different RTRS meetings in different countries and continents. In bellow’s overview you can find meetings organized by RTRS – some open for public others closed meetings – and meetings of others where RTRS participates in an active role. If you would like to recommend events relevant to the RTRS, or would like to receive more information about a specific event, please let us know by writing to or calling +54 11 45198005.


The main events that are planned for the second half of 2012 are:





RTRS Executive Board / Staff involvement



Field tests of RTRS production standard

ANAPO (RTRS member in Bolivia)

5 September

Brasilia, Brazil

3rd Technical Working Group meeting RTRS Mapping Project

Veronica Chorkulak, Daniel Meyer, members of the WG

12 September

London, UK

FOSFA course for its members, mainly traders and buyers of commodities. RTRS invited to give an update on RTRS activities

Jaap Oskam (RTRS President)

21 September

Zürich, Switzerland

European Soy Event, organized by the The Soy Network Switzerland, Coop, Migros and SECO 

Jaap Oskam (RTRS President), Ben Zeehandelaar (Comms & Outreach Manager RTRS)

27 September

Brasilia, Brazil

1st National Stakeholder meeting

Veronica Chorkulak, Daniel Meyer

October – exact date to be confirmed

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

2nd meeting Technical Working Group National Interpretation Bolivia

Jimena Frojan

16 and 17 October

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Executive Board meeting

EB + Staff RTRS

November – exact date to be confirmed

Berlin, Germany

Feed, food and retail industry seminar on RTRS

To be confirmed





Q4 – exact date to be confirmed

London, UK

RTRS, RSPO, Bonsucro joint seminar for buyers


December/January – exact date to be confirmed


Soy conference for French stakeholders


Next RTRS Lead Auditor Training Course

RTRS Chain of Custody Standard Certification

Buenos Aires,

18, 19 and 20 September 2012




The RTRS is pleased to invite you to paticipate in its RTRS Chain of Custody training course, which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The objective of the course is to guarantee an optimal level of competence of  those Lead Auditors who are responsible for the RTRS standard.


The course is based on the assumption that sound auditor training, able to produce high quality audits, represents a balance  among knowledge, skills and attitude.


Who is it aimed at?

The course is an obligatory requirement for those auditors wishing to certify the RTRS Chain of Custody standard. It is also open to people interested in acquiring deeper knowledge on this standard and its verification system as well as quality managers or other people involved in other standards or audit processes.


Content of the course

The course will address the following general areas: 

  • Introduction to the RTRS
  • RTRS certification and accreditation system
  • RTRS Chain of Custody standard, including guidelines for implementing the standard and certification steps within the supply chain
  • Types of Chain of Custody certification: Segregation, Mass Balance, Multi-site
  • EU RED compliance requirements applied to the RTRS Chain of Custody
  • RTRS standard audit and verification exercises
  • The RTRS Lead Auditor course includes evaluation of the knowledge and skills obtained during the course. Such evaluation consists of a final test and an assessment of each participant’s level of participation.


At the end of the course, participants will:

  • Know the specific requirements of the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) as regards the implementation of all the standards, policies and guidelines related to the RTRS certification process.
  • Know specific requirements to perform certification audits of the RTRS Chain of Custody standard.
  • Have a positive attitude towards the implementation of the RTRS standards, which could be further developed through audit practice.


Minimum Requirements for RTRS Chain of Custody Standard Lead Auditors

-Having successfully completed an RTRS-endorsed training course covering understanding of the RTRS Chain of Custody standard and basic auditing techniques.

-Having successfully completed any of the following training courses for Lead Auditors:

ISO 9000, 14000, or OHSAS 18000 (37- hour minimum duration) or an ISO 19011 course (24 -hour minimum duration). Note: it must include a practical component (e.g., it cannot be entirely an on-line course).

-Training period in practical auditing supervised by a qualified lead auditor having a minimum of 10 days audit experience in similar certification schemes (for example, including traceability) and involving  at least two audits of different organizations.

-Having at least one post high school degree or equivalent (minimum course duration of 2 years).


Duration and Cost

3 days (24 hours) – LIMITED VACANCIES


4200 pesos (Argentine)




RTRS members: 5 % discount

If you have already done an RTRS lead auditor course: 10% discount

More than one auditor: 10% discount



City of Buenos Aires, Argentina  - Venue to be confirmed



8.45 Registration

9.00 Beginning of the course

18.00 End of the course



Complete the attached form for the training course and return it to Facundo Cativiela via


Further Information

Contact or call at: +54 11 4519 8008


For download the RTRS Course Flyer click here: 

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