Chocolate and cocoa companies agree to share greater levels of data

A key industry breakthrough has been unveiled at the European Cocoa Association (ECA) forum event, as chocolate and cocoa companies show willingness to share their cocoa farmer data with Ivorian and Ghanaian authorities, reports Neill Barston.

The significance of the move comes in its potential to boost traceability and overall sustainability within the sector – which proved one of the main recurring themes of the final day of the event (today) in Rome, attracting some of the most prominent players in the industry.

Notably, this year’s ECA forum drew more than 400 key stakeholders from around the the world, included environmental scientists, EU Commission representatives, as well as cocoa sector and chocolate industry leaders, alongside civil society groups. Taking place in parallel with the event was a Chocovision roundtable session – which had previously been a standalone chocolate sector event taking place in Davos.

Under the terms of the latest agreement between the ECA and Caobisco, the association of chocolate, biscuit and confectionery industries of Europe, respective data from each of the organisations members will be fed into a central database. This will be owned and driven by producing countries, in compliance with EU and national data privacy legislation, which the two bodies explained aimed to achieve a robust nationwide traceability system.

Major Ivory Coast development

Among the major related talking points of the event was a keynote delivered by Laurent Tchagba, Ivory Coast minister for waters and deforestation, who set out some of the country’s approach to handling deforestation and wider industry sustainability. This includes a reported projected investment believed to total around €1billion into delivering on environmental measures, including enhanced traceability within its supply chains. He noted that it was significant that all major stakeholders in the sector should work together in delivering legislative frameworks for the future.

The forests minister, who took up his latest post having previously served in a hydraulics government role, is understood from local media reports, to have been tasked with expanding forested areas within Ivory Coast, which has according to industry reports, lost a total of 80% of its forest cover since the 1960s due to in part to industrial and commercial activity.

Furthermore during the session, the conference heard today from Alan Belward, of the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre, who reflected on how tracing systems had evolved, noting there are ‘no silver bullets’ to perfect mapping approach in assisting farming communities. However, he believed the European Copernicus system was doing a strong job at evaluating levels of deforestation, which in turn could benefit agricultural environments if land management has greater accuracy.

According to the ECA, in recent years, cocoa and chocolate producing companies have mapped many of the geographic locations of farms from which they are directly sourcing, in order to ensure that
this cocoa was not sourced from deforested areas.

Compiling individual company datasets into an overarching database, and making it available to producing countries’ authorities, will be a material addition to establishing robust cocoa traceability in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

For a fully traceable cocoa supply chain, it would be required for Ivory Coast and Ghana to
mandate traceability to all the cocoa sourcing companies active in their markets.

ECA President Paul Davis and Caobisco President Aldo Cristiano issued a joint statement on its latest collaboration: “The European Cocoa and Chocolate Industries are fully committed to addressing and contributing to the successful implementation of a functional system of regional and national cocoa farm
traceability that will promote the objective of ensuring that products are deforestation-free when entering the EU single market.

“ECA and Caobisco are very much aligned with the EU’s objectives, and we believe that by working in close collaboration with our partners in producing countries and by sharing common environmental goals, we can achieve optimal outcomes and create a win win situation for all the actors of the cocoa and chocolate sectors, including for the millions of farmers upon whom confidence in their products depends. Improved provenance in the origination of cocoa will further enhance our shared commitment to achieving sustained economic, social, and environmental progression in those sectors. “

As the two organisations noted, their collaborative work comes amid a backdrop of significant legislative developments on traceability.

This includes the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products and EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, the Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa Roadmap endorsed by European, Ghanaian, and Ivorian stakeholders, and the establishment of an Economic Pact for Sustainable Cocoa by the Ivory Coast Cocoa Initiative, which collectively assert that such measures will aid environmental, social and economic objectives.


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