Cocoa tree

New projects include using nut shells to make a compostable alternative to plastic 

Brazilian meat giant JBS is to spend a further £10m on environmental projects in the Amazon as part of a move to “support the bioeconomy and preservation” of the region by engaging with both traditional and indigenous communities.

The Moy Park and Pilgrim’s Pride owner said it would add seven new projects – including the production of a “compostable alternative to plastic made from nut shells; a ‘cocoa corridor’ of protected rainforest; and an initiative empowering women in indigenous tribes” – to 12 similar ventures already in place as part of its JBS Fund for the Amazon.

One of the ongoing projects was looking into “the development of bioplastic (green polypropylene) with the aim of scaling up Brazil nut waste into the composition of plastic”, the Fund said, with another, involving universities in the region, investigating “the quantity of raw materials that are biodegradable”.

The projects aimed to “encourage the study and development of ingredients and products based on the biodiversity of the Amazon biome, generating business for the region”, said Joanita Maestri Karoleski, president of the Fund, which dubs itself “an association dedicated to promoting and financing initiatives and projects whose aim is the sustainable development of the Amazon biome”.

The latest Fund update followed a June statement by JBS that it would spend around £4m on fire-fighting and prevention in the Pantanal, a wetland spanning the meeting points of the Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay borders, after earlier being linked to wildfires in the region. JBS has also in recent months fought to rebut accusations it allowed its greenhouse gas emissions climb by 50% between 2016 and 2021.

The Fund’s new projects were announced after a report published earlier this month by Reporter Brasil and Ecostorm, which describes itself as “the world’s leading ethical investigative agency”, in which JBS was accused of feeding chickens with soya beans and corn harvested on deforested land in the Amazon region and the Cerrado, a savanna east of the rainforest which the WWF says is home to 5% of the world’s animals and plants.

The various claims and announcements came ahead of the US Department of Agriculture last week publishing its latest world agricultural production estimates, in which it projected “record” Brazil soybean output for 2022/23, up 20% on 2020/21.

Also last week, official trade promotion body ApexBrasil announced the nation’s highest exports by value to the UK since 2014, with around £1.3bn worth sent across the Atlantic Ocean in the first half of this year. The increase included “a 140% surge” in foodstuffs “such as oils, seeds and fruits”, ApexBrasil said.

Brazil’s goods exports to the EU were the most on record for a six-month period, reaching €22.86bn, ApexBrasil added, listing “strong performances in key sectors such as soybeans and animal feed”. 

The European parliament last month voted in favour of the bloc restricting imports of goods allegedly linked to deforestation, with the proposed rules set for further talks this year between EU institutions and member-states. Brazil was among 14 governments that sent a letter to the EU, protesting that the curbs, if implemented, would be “discriminatory” and would add to food price inflation.