Exclusive video: European Cocoa Association forum set to address major deforestation, child labour and consumer trends

Paul Davis, the recently elected president of the European Cocoa Association, has expressed his hopes for the sector ahead of the organisation’s latest forum event taking place in Rome, writes Neill Barston.

In an exclusive video interview (see below), he offers his thoughts on a number of key issues impacting on the industry, including core issues of tackling deforestation, supply chain challenges and ongoing issues of child labour within core supply chains in West Africa.

As the president, who also serves as head of cocoa at Paris-headquartered Sucden, explained, he believed that the ECA’s latest event, taking placed between 13-15 September would offer some core insights and roadmaps towards addressing a market under renewed pressure from turbulent global markets.

This year’s event features an opening keynote address from ECA’s director general,Catherine Entzminger and former ECA president ,Harold Poelma, followed by an exploration of how the sector can balance the need for sustainability against economic tests.

Among other core topics for the event will be a discussion led by the EU Commission on its farm-to-fork strategy and how this is set to impact on the cocoa sector, managing regulatory change, as well as strengthening food safety.

Further sessions of the event include a presentation from Bas Smit, Global Vice President of marketing for Barry Callebaut on the future of indulgence within confectionery, as well as a presentation from Mars Edge on its examination of cocoa flavanols, exploring the potential health benefits of cocoa.

Speaking about the event, Paul Davis commented on his appointment. He said: “I feel privileged to be in my role, and lucky to be able to really have that responsibility. We all realise what an exceptional business and work environment and sector generally. It’s so diverse, spread globally, it’s such a brilliant product and such an amazing business. At the one end you have the chocolate businesses, and even stronger in our hearts as cocoa traders are all our origin partners, for whom this industry is an enormous employer and is a vast sector that is hugely important around the world.”

“It’s been in the industry for 35 years now and we have a few challenges ahead of us – it was always thus. But I hope that I can be responsible and strong enough to encourage people to be talking, communicating and solving issues. Fate is bringing us together at this point in time for the forum ahead of next season – which looks pretty balanced in terms of supply and demands. But we do have headwinds out there – including prices for fertilser for farmers, as well as tough conditions for consumers, so we have that in the background,” noted the president, who anticipated that the upcoming EU legislation on due diligence would have a notable impact on the industry for the better.

On the issue of child labour, he believed that it was a question of collective action being taken to resolve what has been a longstanding matter, yet he believed it was important ‘not to throw the baby out with the bathwater’ in terms of penalising the many decent farming operations that had been impacted by the behaviour of a few who were not operating at required standards.

However, he added that he remained optimistic that such significant tests could be resolved, and will form part of the ECA’s event agenda taking place at the Hotel Villa Pamphili between 13-15 September. For more information, visit www.eurococoa.com



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