* JBS, Marfrig, Bunge Brasil pushing for emissions reporting
* New protocol launched to report agricultural emissions
* Brazil's farm sector slow to adopt low-carbon practices
By Marcelo Teixeira
SAO PAULO, May 29 (Reuters) - Large Brazilian food companies, looking to avoid environmental-based restrictions from foreign buyers, have joined organizations active in climate programs to develop tools to better measure greenhouse gases emitted by themselves and their suppliers.
JBS, the world's largest beef processor; AMaggi, a top trader of soy and corn; Marfrig, a global processor of animal protein; and the local arm of food giant Bunge Ltd have all entered a program to develop new guidelines to measure emissions from the agricultural sector.
The companies want suppliers to adopt emissions reporting practices to assure investors and foreign food buyers that they are trying to produce in a sustainable way, said representatives working on the program.
"We want to identify the emissions and the emissions reductions in the supply chain, since we have more than 60,000 cattle suppliers in Brazil," said Marcio Nappo, JBS sustainability director.
Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) coordinated the work to create the guidelines to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). It will present this new GHG Protocol for Agriculture on Wednesday at a seminar in Sao Paulo.
"For Brazil, it is fundamental to have this tool," said Juliana Lopes, sustainability director at AMaggi group.
"We have 3,500 associated producers in our supply chain. We want to set a chain-wide carbon management program," she said.
This is not the first time these Brazilian firms have acted to reduce environmental risks.
Following criticism from green groups and foreign food retailers in past years, most large and medium-sized agricultural companies operating locally have banned buying grains or cattle produced in areas recently deforested.
According to the WRI, agriculture accounts for about 13 percent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases. Brazil ranks second to China among the largest GHG emitters from agriculture.
In addition to emissions typically associated with farming, such as methane from cattle belching or nitrous oxide from use of fertilizers, there is deforestation.
Most of the emissions from deforestation are connected to the expansion of farming in developing countries.
Brazil has lost 36 million hectares of forest over the last 12 years, mainly in new frontiers for agricultural production, says the WRI.
Eduardo Assad, a climate expert at Brazilian agricultural research center Embrapa who also contributed to the new protocol, says Brazilian food companies and producers need to see the benefits that the new protocol offers.
"It's an important step for certification of Brazilian commodities, to make products more competitive and give them an environmental label. The world is going this direction," he said.
Brazil's agriculture sector has been slow to adopt low-carbon practices, says Assad, despite generous public financing for it.
And as the sector grows, fueled by increasing world demand for food, it is on the way to become the main GHG source in the country, surpassing the energy sector, he added. (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)