Cocoa Coalition adds support for EU deforestation legislation, but calls for intensification of proposals
The Cocoa Coalition of major confectionery companies including Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, Hershey, Ferrero, Tony’s Chocolonely, alongside Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, has added its support for EU plans for deforestation legislation – but calls for it to be further intensified, reports Neill Barston.
According to the group, the proposals from the European Commission that aim to deliver due diligence surrounding core commodities supply chains are a ‘step in the right direction,’ but it believes the text of its proposals needs to be enhanced.
Its broad welcome of the proposals, comes as Europe’s Caobisco confectionery trade association also backs the delivery of due diligence for supply chains within cocoa, which it believed was vital to the future sustainability of the sectors which it serves.
The coalition highlighted several key areas that should be amended, including pinpointing greater specific mentions of protecting existing ecosystem in key supplier nations (including Ghana and Ivory Coast), as well as enabling coherent frameworks of engaging with all stakeholders in the supply chain including smallholder farmers before decisions are made in relation to polices that may impact on them.
As the group added, signatories to the EU’s position paper welcome the publication of the proposed regulation on deforestation (‘Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the making available on the Union market as well as export from the Union of certain commodities and products associated with deforestation and forest degradation and repealing Regulation (EU) No 995/2010’).
The group noted: “We believe that the proposed regulation represents an important step forward in driving the necessary transformation of the cocoa and chocolate sector, by helping to minimise the risk of deforestation associated with cocoa and chocolate products placed on the EU market. We called for legislation of this type in the first position paper we published in 2019, and in our more detailed position paper published in October 2021.
“We welcome in particular the application of the due diligence requirements throughout the cocoa and chocolate supply chain within the EU; the potential use of independent means of verification, such as satellite imaging, to underpin the information requirements; the application of the benchmarking risk analysis system within, as well as between, countries; the clear obligations on competent authorities for minimum levels of checks on companies, and minimum levels of penalties; and the inclusion of ‘substantiated concerns’ provisions for third parties to raise concerns over infringements of the legislation.
“With regard to cocoa, we also support the inclusion of the requirement for full geolocation information on the origin of the products covered by the regulation. The efforts made by companies in the Cocoa Coalition and in the wider cocoa sector have shown how traceability systems, including geolocation information, can be implemented effectively even in complex supply chains featuring a very high proportion of smallholder farmers. We recognise the critical role of producer-country governments, alongside companies, certification organisations and others, in rolling out traceability systems to the farm level, and the progress led by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in setting up national traceability systems.”
Furthermore, the group addd that it also recognised the inherent challenges in expanding these systems to cover the full supply chain, which is made up of millions of smallholder farmers, many of which are currently not part of formal farmer organisations.
Consequently, it added that any legislation had to be make accommodation for the fact that much of the industry was not part of such formalised farming cooperatives, and that this should be a priority in terms of devising any strategies.
The group added: “We are confident that the regulation has the potential to reinforce producer-country efforts to establish a sustainable cocoa sector for the long term as long as the burdens of compliance are shared fairly throughout the supply chain and cocoa farmers are not left to bear additional costs without adequate support. In particular, we believe it essential that the European Commission conducts a comprehensive needs assessment of the challenges that will be faced by smallholder farmers in complying with the regulation, and the support that they will require.”
It stated that the assessment should pay particular attention to support for smallholder farmers, including for the establishment and comprehensive roll-out of traceability systems, which will prove particularly challenging for those smallholders who are currently not part of farmer organisations. It should also be gender-sensitive, taking into account the different barriers, needs and capacities of women farmers.
This needs assessment will inform the scale and type of support that will need to be mobilised by the EU and its member states and by companies in the sector. This assessment should be initiated as soon as possible; it should not wait until the regulation has entered into force. This needs assessment should also analyse the need for support for smallholders who have farmed in compliance with national law but in a way that caused deforestation after 31 December 2020 but before they had any knowledge of the regulation, to ensure that they are not left destitute.