(Adds AgroSB and Ibama comments, paragraphs 5-9)
SAO PAULO, July 2 (Reuters) - Brazilian food processor JBS SA has been buying cattle from ranchers operating on deforested land in the Amazon that the government had said must not be used for grazing, a newspaper report said on Tuesday.
Repórter Brasil, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian reported that a JBS supplier in the northern Brazilian state of Pará had been raising cattle in a deforested area that had been embargoed by the environment agency Ibama.
In a statement sent to Reuters, JBS said that monitoring indirect cattle suppliers was challenging for the entire meat-packing sector due to a lack of public databases that would allow development of a proper monitoring system.
A JBS spokesperson also referred Reuters to a statement sent to Repórter Brasil and the other publications. The statement said JBS did not buy animals from farms involved in deforestation or embargoed by Ibama.
Ibama imposes embargoes on land where illegal deforestation has taken place, as punishment and to allow the land to recover. In 2017, Ibama said it fined 14 meat-packers and applied fines totally 294 million reais ($76.5 million) as part of an investigation into illegal ranching in deforested areas of the Amazon.
The news report said its investigative team saw cattle grazing on a farm in Pará called Lagoa do Triunfo. It said the farm had been fined for deforestation and should not have had animals grazing on it. That farm belongs to AgroSB, a traditional supplier to JBS, the report said.
AgroSB said the environmental fines were issued in 2010 and 2013 but refer to deforestation occurring before July 2008, when the firm did not own that property.
Lagoa do Triunfo has 145,000 hectares (358,302 acres), and the embargo only covers 7% of that property, AgroSB said.
In the report, AgroSB denied irregularities in cattle sales, but declined to comment specifically on animals reportedly seen grazing on any embargoed area of Lagoa do Triunfo.
Citing public animal shipping records, the report claimed that between January and October of 2018, AgroSB transferred at least 296 head of cattle from Lagoa do Triunfo to Espírito Santo, an estate which it also owns. From there, AgroSB sold at least 1,977 head of cattle between July and October to two JBS meat plants in Pará, the records showed.
Other purchases from Espírito Santo occurred last January, when JBS bought some 936 animals from that farm, the report claimed.
($1 = 3.8655 reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and David Gregorio)