Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has signed an order to ban forest burning in the Amazon rainforest for 60 days.

As the Amazon continues to be engulfed in fires, Bolsonaro has drawn criticism from European leaders and farming organisations for his handling of the situation, and his record on climate change.

RTÉ reports that the order will be officially published today, and prohibits any burning for 60 days. However, burning for some approved agricultural and forestry practices may be allowed to continue.

Responding to the fires last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to rule out Ireland ratifying the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur – of which Brazil is a member – if the country didn’t meet its environmental commitments.

The Taoiseach highlighted that “this year has seen record levels of destruction of Amazonian forests by fire”.

“There is no way we can tell Irish and European farmers to use fewer pesticides, less fertiliser, embrace biodiversity and plant more of their land and expect them to do it, if we do not make trade deals contingent on decent environmental, labour and product standards,” he said.

The Mercosur deal is two years away from a vote on approval in Europe. During the course of these two years, we will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental action.

Farming organisations in Ireland have also responded to the fires, with the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) saying that there was a “direct line” between the current situation and the Mercosur agreement.

Pat McCormack, the ICMSA president, said that there was “a stunning inability to make the connections between issues which are linked”.

While farmers and everyone else were constantly told they had to ‘join the dots’ in terms of action, that sequence was absent when something like Mercosur was negotiated.

“The very moment Mercosur signaled South American beef was going to be imported by the EU, the South American ranchers were encouraged to produce more beef. Now we have catastrophic fires raging throughout the Amazon which will clear land for beef production,” McCormack argued.