Deforestation due to the cultivation of cocoa has reduced the surface area of the Ivorian forest from 16 to 2 million hectares © Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images
Deforestation due to the cultivation of cocoa has reduced the surface area of the Ivorian forest from 16 to 2 million hectares © Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Fears EU laws could stop African countries accessing markets

4 August 2022

Leading cocoa producers Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have reported significant progress in ending deforestation as they prepare for the potential introduction of strict new EU sustainability laws.

The two countries released reports claiming they have reached new traceability milestones.

Côte d’Ivoire said it had mapped 3.2m hectares of cocoa farms while Ghana said it had mapped 72% of its total cocoa growing area via its national Cocoa Management System.

This covers 515,762 farmers and 845,635 farms.

West African cocoa producing nations currently fear that strictly sustainability rules being mooted by the EU and Switzerland could prevent them accessing European markets.

Switzerland has pledged to ensure that 80% of all cocoa imports come from sustainable sources by 2025.

Last year the EU proposed to completely ban cocoa products linked to deforestation from entering the trade zone.

However the council of the EU and European Parliament have still not agreed or adopted the proposal.

Even though no ban is in force, companies such as Nestlé have already started to exclude West African cocoa farmers from supply chains out of fear they may be associated with deforestation in the future.

In November 2020 Nestlé removed 4,300 cocoa farmers from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire from its supply chain as they were considered to be growing cocoa in designated forest land.

Yet Nestlé said it believed some of these farmers were being unfairly excluded from European markets as they had been farming the land for several decades.

Last month SM reported that the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana had agreed to create national sector-wide cocoa traceability systems as part of a new sustainability alliance with the EU.

The European Commission (EC) said as part of the Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa, systems will ensure all cocoa can be traced from the plot level and traceability data will be publicly available to all stakeholders.

The alliance will act as a roadmap to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cocoa production and trade, said the EC. 

It would also help ensure farmers are not excluded from EU markets if new measures are introduced.

“Following two years of discussions, all sides have committed to a set of concrete time-bound actions to improve the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain in West Africa,” it said.

“These actions aim to halt deforestation and child labour, and improve the living income for farmers. These commitments were endorsed by all and will be closely monitored.”

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are currently demanding chocolate makers and traders pay more for their beans to help tackle farmer poverty.

The two West African countries together produce more than 60% of the world’s cocoa but say pressure from multinational cocoa traders and chocolate makers often leads to poverty wages for farmers.

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