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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - World No. 2 soy grower Brazil will launch a label to distinguish beans and derivatives produced according to a list of environmental and social criteria to meet consumer demand for sustainable produce.
The Soja Plus seal will comprise 46 prerequisites that must be fulfilled for growers to earn the seal -- and hopefully a premium for their produce in foreign markets like the European Union whose consumers are some of the most demanding.
"The expectation is that one third or one quarter of Brazilian exports will be certified with Soja Plus two or three harvests from now," said Carlo Lovatelli, head of the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove).
European Union countries bought nearly two thirds of its soymeal exports in 2009, worth around $4.6 billion dollars and summing more than 12 million tonnes in volume, the agriculture ministry said.
"There is demand in Europe (for sustainable produce). It remains to be seen if they will pay for it," Lovatelli said at the launch of the programme. It aims to begin issuing the label by October this year.
The programme will add to a separate initiative in Brazil that prohibits the sale of soy produced on newly deforested land in the Amazon rainforest in the far north. Nearly all Brazil's soy is grown in the southern half of the country.
Soy farming has been indirectly blamed for deforestation by spreading over pasture land and pushing ranchers north into the Amazon region, but government figures show the planted area has been stable since around 2003.
As an additional incentive to growers considering switching to the costlier farming methods Soja Plus requires, banks keen to promote environmentally and socially sustainable business may consider offering cut-cost loans, Lovatelli said.
The entities that developed the label include Abiove, the soy and corn producers' association in the state of Mato Grosso and the industry-funded Ares Institute for Responsible Agribusiness.
The scheme will also contribute to entities' strategic aim of avoiding loss of foreign custom were buyers to impose sustainability criteria of their own for Brazilian soy imports.
Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Marguerita Choy