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August 10, 2020

Marfrig Global Foods's Goal is Zero Deforestation within 10 Years

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Brazil is currently in the midst of its annual dry season when the risk of fires, both accidental and intentional, are at their peak. In recent years, fires in the Amazon Region of Brazil have led to widespread negative publicity for Brazilian farmers and the agricultural products they sell overseas especially in Europe. The agricultural product most associated with those fires is beef and one of the world's largest beef producers is taking action to limit fires and deforestation resulting from cattle ranching.

The Brazilian company Marfrig Global Foods is the world's largest producer of hamburgers and they recently announced their Marfrig Green Plan which is an ambitious plan to have their suppliers produce 100% sustainable beef production with zero deforestation within 10 years.

Marfrig worked with the public-private IDH Institute from Holland to develop the plan following the guidelines from the Sustainable Development Objectives from the United Nations. Marfrig will invest R$ 500 million to develop and execute their Green Plan.

It will be a multiple step plan starting in 2020 when they will develop maps depicting native vegetation and cattle production across the Amazon biome of northern Brazil. These satellite generated maps will be able to pinpoint high risk and low risk areas for deforestation and threats to biodiversity. The same system will then be used to map the cerrado biome as well.

By 2022 they plan to have a system in place that will be able to identify and track where cattle are being produced and if any of the cattle have been produced on land that had been cleared illegally. This is easier said than done because some of the cattle make their way to the processing facilities from indirect sources making it difficult to pinpoint where they were produced. By 2025 they feel they will be able to identify the source of all the cattle coming into their processing facilities.

Between 2022 and 2025, Marfrig will put in place a system of technicians that will work with ranchers so they understand the company's sustainably criteria. They will work with ranchers on pasture improvement, animal genetic improvement, and animal nutrition with the goal of increased productivity on the land that has already been cleared. By improving productivity and incomes for ranchers, there will be less incentives for ranchers to clear more land in order to increase their incomes.

Marfrig and IDH will work with financial institutions to make sure there is adequate credit available to ranchers to adopt the sustainable practices. The goal by 2030 is to have zero deforestation in both the Amazon and cerrado biomes by any rancher that producers cattle for the company.

To achieve the scale and speed needed to achieve their goal of zero deforestation, they will work with producers, governments, other companies in the sector, civil society, clients, investors, and banks.

Marfrig Global Foods is one of the leaders in beef production in the world with receipts of R$ 41.4 billion in 2018. The company has the capacity to process 32,000 cattle per day and produce 232,000 tons of hamburgers per year. Marfrig has 30,000 employees spread across 35 processing facilities and their beef products are sold both domestically and internationally.

The IDH Institute is a public-private partnership created in 2008 that is based in Holland and financed by half a dozen European countries with the goal of promoting sustainable agricultural production based on the Sustainable Development Objectives of the United Nations.