Brazil soy sector extends Amazon boycott for year

BRASILIA, July 28 (Reuters) - Brazilian soy crushers said on Tuesday they have extended for one more year a ban to purchases of soybeans grown in newly deforested areas of the Amazon basin.

The moratorium, which was set up as a response to pressure from activist groups and buyers to preserve the world’s largest rain forest, applies to soybeans planted as of October 2006.

Joined by major soy exporters and processors, environmental groups and Brazil’s government, the initiative will now include the monitoring of properties with less than 100 hectares (247 acres), which so far had been ignored.

“Soy is not a relevant factor in Amazon destruction anymore,” said Environment Minister Carlos Minc during an event to celebrate the project’s third anniversary.

He added however that Amazon deforestation figures were still “unacceptable.”

The initiative joins all major grain processors with operations in Brazil, such as ADM ADM.N, Cargill [CARG.UL], Louis Dreyfus and Bunge BG.N.

The Amazon biome covers an area of 419 million hectares (1.035 billion acres), or half of Brazil’s territory.

Each year country-sized parts of the forest are deforested, although the rate has fallen sharply from a few years ago.

In addition to loggers, ranchers and peasants, large-scale farmers are often blamed for contributing to the devastation as Brazil’s agricultural frontier has expanded due to strong foreign demand for the country’s commodities in recent years.

Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter and the second-largest exporter of soy, much of which is bought by China.

The accord, spearheaded by the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Producers (Abiove) and the National Grains Exporters’ Association (Anec), does not cover about 10 percent of Brazil’s soy output.

The group said it will try to showcase the moratorium project at the Climate Change Conference, in Copenhagen later this year, and in other forums to get resources to remunerate producers who preserve the forest. (Reporting by Natuza Nery, Writing by Inae Riveras; Editing by Marguerita Choy)