SAO PAULO, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Nearly a third of the cattle
bought by JBS SA in the Brazilian Amazon state of
Para came from ranches with "irregularities" such as illegal
deforestation, prosecutors found in a 2020 audit of the world's
largest meatpacker released on Thursday.
In a presentation, federal prosecutors said they were
"negotiating improvements" with companies such as JBS with
"unsatisfactory and worsening" performance in the audit, which
analyzed cattle transactions between January 2018 and June 2019.
In a statement, JBS said the audit changed some of its
criteria, impacting the results. Prosecutors said nothing
changed in their methodology or the way they audit companies.
JBS also acknowledged the need to implement "additional
measures to reinforce its due diligence work in the state" and
said it would invest 5 million reais ($908,265) to improve the
sustainability of its supply chain.
The 2020 audit found no irregularities related to cattle
purchases from Minerva, South America's largest beef
exporter and a key rival of JBS, the presentation showed.
Cattle ranching is one of the main drivers of deforestation
in the Amazon rainforest and the results of the audit add to
growing concern that JBS is contributing to the destruction by
buying cattle from illegally cleared land.
The Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, is a crucial
bulwark against climate change due to the carbon it absorbs and
JBS, along with other major meatpackers, reached a
settlement with prosecutors in 2013 in which the companies
agreed not to buy cattle from ranches that were cleared
illegally since 2008 or otherwise blacklisted for environmental
The companies also agreed to stop buying cattle from
ranchers blacklisted for engaging in slave labor, occupying
indigenous land and violating environmental preserves.
The agreement was initially celebrated for contributing to a
marked fall in deforestation, but in recent years has drawn
increasing criticism from environmentalists for lacking teeth.
Although prosecutors have the power to fine companies for
poor-compliance, they have so far chosen not to do so and
preferred to work with meatpackers to improve their results.
Prosecutors monitoring that agreement in Para state found
JBS had improved its compliance in a 2019 audit, when 8% of
cattle bought by the company came from ranches with
"irregularities," down from 19% in a 2018 audit.
However, that ratio jumped to 32% or more than 300,000
head of cattle in the 2020 audit presented on Thursday.
($1 = 5.5050 reais)
(Reporting by Ana Mano
Writing by Brad Haynes
Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Aurora Ellis)