Cocoa-tracing tech handed to farmers ahead of EU deforestation rules

9 February 2023

Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are being handed electronic cards to enable tracking of beans.

The country’s Coffee-Cocoa Council (CCC) began distributing the “coffee-cocoa producer card” as part of a traceability programme launched in response to EU plans to ban imports of commodities linked to deforestation and rights abuses by 2024.

Yves Brahima Koné, director general at the CCC, said the cards also include digital wallets that ensure farmers receive the guaranteed farm gate price set by the state.

So far the CCC has identified more than one million growers who are due to receive the card.

Meanwhile, research from Institute Of Physics (IOP) Publishing has claimed 55% of cocoa beans in Côte d’Ivoire cannot be tracked because they are sourced from intermediaries or exported without traceability information.

Cocoa accounts for more than one third of national export revenue in Côte d’Ivoire, but the crop is associated with deforestation due to factors including weak enforcement of land use regulations.

IOP’s report cited figures showing Côte d’Ivoire had lost 80% of its forest cover in the past 60 years – with almost half of deforestation and forest degradation due to cocoa.

“In response to public pressure, most chocolate companies have made some investment in tracing the origins of their cocoa supplies, committing to zero-deforestation policies,” the report said.

“However, the success of these initiatives is very limited. There is often a breakdown of records between the cocoa production and its transportation. This makes it difficult to assess where companies source their cocoa from and what progress they are making toward their zero deforestation pledges.”

Especially high rates of untraced cocoa sourcing can be found along the border with Liberia, the study found.

It said forests here are under threat by cocoa expansion from Côte d’Ivoire and in these areas 80-100% of exported cocoa is not traceable to its first buyer – let alone to its origin farm.

“This falls short of the forthcoming requirements under the EU due diligence legislation, cloaking the sustainability risks associated with cocoa products,” said the report.

Traders who disclose supplying cooperatives can greatly strengthen their level of transparency.

Cécile Renier, lead author of the study, described disclosed data as often being “incomplete, irregular, non-standardised or never updated”. She urged companies to go “beyond the traceability of their own supply chains”.

“Much greater means are needed to enforce land use policies and landscape initiatives. Coupled with transparent national traceability systems and robust deforestation monitoring, this would ensure effective forest conservation, and achieve true sustainability in the cocoa supply chain.”

Separately, Pascal Baltussen, head of impact at ethical chocolatier Tony’s Chocolonely, called on companies to “decommodify” and move to a system of “radical transparency” to improve ESG impacts.

Speaking at the CIPS Procurement Futures conference, Baltussen said he saw no reason the company’s ethical sourcing model – under which cocoa farmers are paid more and supported not to use child labour – could not be applied to other industries.

He said the only true way to improve supply chain ethics was to decommodify, by no longer buying inputs in commodity markets and instead having direct involvement in how they're produced.

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