* Meat packers face fines over illegally reared cattle
* Cattle reared on deforested or indigenous land
* Brasil Foods could be fined $8.9 million
BRASILIA, April 15 Brazilian prosecutors are
seeking to fine 26 beef producers a total of $282 million for
buying cattle raised in illegally deforested Amazon areas or on
indigenous reservations, the federal prosecution service said on
The list included one major Brazilian food producer - Brasil
Foods - which faces fines totaling 17.6 million
($8.90 million), over accusations that it bought 1,762 cattle
reared on illegally-cleared land in Mato Grosso state.
About half those alleged purchases were made by Brasil
Foods' Sadia unit. The alleged purchases are a minute number
compared to the nearly 11 million cattle and swine Brasil Foods
slaughters each year.
Prosecutors calculated the fines for each company based on
the number of animals raised in illegal conditions that they are
alleged to have bought. Prosecutors say the 26 companies bought
55,699 such cattle between January and September 2012.
Brasil Foods spokesman Kristhian Kaminski said the company
had not received official notification of any legal proceedings
or of their exact nature, and therefore could not comment.
Several other companies faced fines for buying cattle raised
with the use of slave labor, prosecutors said. The cases will go
before judges in the states of Mato Grosso, Amazonas and
Rondonia where the offences are alleged to have taken place.
"We want these companies to stop buying in these areas and
in this way, avert further deforestation," Rodrigo Timoteo da
Costa e Silva, prosecutor in Mato Grosso state, told Reuters.
On its website, Brasil Foods says it checks the websites of
government agencies to ensure it does not buy cattle from farms
in illegal areas or those on a slave labor black list.
Prosecutors said the offences were detected during
monitoring of the companies' activities after all 26 refused to
sign up to an accord under which they would have had to agree to
avoid the practices for which they may now be fined.
Illegal cattle ranching has been one of the major drivers of
Amazon deforestation in the last few decades together with
illegal logging. Deforestation levels have fallen dramatically
in the last decade after a government crackdown.
($1 = 1.9782 Brazilian reals)
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Bernard Orr)