SAO PAULO, May 8 (Reuters) - Archer Daniel Midlands Co. , one of the world's largest grain traders, said on Friday it was launching a sustainable soy certification program in Brazil with an eye to meeting the demand of European buyers.
The program, which should include 120 of the 6,000 Brazilian producers growing soy for ADM by the end of the year, is specifically targeting the European Union, and the Netherlands in particular, said Amanda Cosenza, sustainability manager for ADM in South America.
Brazil, the world's No. 2 soybean producer after the United States, ships nearly 70 percent of its soybeans to China, though some exporters are seeking to diversify in light of slower economic growth in Asia's largest economy.
ADM declined to give company-specific export data.
Other companies in Brazil are also working to prove their soybeans did not contribute to deforestation of the Amazon rain forest or employ slave labor. ADM's program will expand in coming years and will likely be launched in Paraguay as well, Cosenza said.
"This fits with demand," she said in an interview.
Representatives of Abiove, an industry group that includes the biggest soy traders in Brazil, traveled to Europe last month to discuss soy sustainability and its Soja Plus program.
The private sector's efforts to meet Europe's demand for sustainable soy, a key ingredient in animal feed, comes amid a shift in government policy. Brazil last year extended a moratorium on buying soy grown in illegally cleared land in the Amazon rainforest until May 2016.
By then the government hopes to finish a registry of all farming property in Brazil, considered a first step towards implementing a new forestry code that was passed in 2012.
Some environmental groups have criticized the looming end to the soy moratorium, especially as a new shipping route via river barges in the Amazon opens up. The Brazilian government and industries say that other controls will replace the moratorium, ensuring soy does not contribute to deforestation.
"Our focus until May 2016 will be to ensure that all ADM producers are registered," said Cosenza. "There will be new conversations in 2016 to see what the next steps are." (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)