US government and Ivory Coast farmers seek delay over EUDR implementation

The US government has joined a growing chorus of calls from farmers within the cocoa sector to the EU Commission for delaying the implementation of the upcoming EUDR regulations, reports Neill Barston.

As reported by the Financial Times this week, the Biden Democratic administration’s Gina Raimondo and Thomas Vilsack, the respective American secretaries of commerce and agriculture believed the new legislation incoming this December tackling deforestation in supply chains including cocoa, faced ‘critical challenges’ to US producers.

There had been specific concerns raised within the timber trade, which had voiced fears it would be unable to prove the transparency of its supply chains, with similar concerns echoed by authorities in Indonesia and Malaysia within the palm oil trade, which also called for further delays to the landmark scheme.

The major legislation has also faced opposition from within the EU, including Austria and a number of other countries within the trading bloc seeking to exempt small farms from scrutiny under the agreed frameworks.

However, as recently reported by Confectionery Production at the World Cocoa Conference, the EU Commission confirmed that it remained committed to the timeline of implementing the legislation, citing the fact that nations had already been given two years warning that the frameworks would come into effect at the end of this year. In addition to addressing deforestation directly, the laws also seek to reduce the EU’s Greenhouse Gas emissions.

But it emerged at the event that concerns have continued to remain surrounding the precise accuracy of satellite mapping that is at the heart of the plans to place fully traceable supply chains down to farm level, while also seeking to respect human rights of farmers into the policy.

Consequently, the two US ambassadors have written to the EU seeking to amend the timeline for deploying the EUDR legislation: “We urge the EU Commission to delay the implementation of this regulation and subsequent enforcement of penalties until these substantial challenges have been addressed.”

As recently reported, Caobisco, the European confectionery trade association responded to the issue at the recent World Cocoa Conference, with its president Aldo Cristiano stated that companies were ready to comply with the new legislation, but that there remained further clarifications to its implementation to be revealed.

Farming sector major concerns
Significantly, Kanga Koffi, president of the board of directors of Anaproci, the Association of Cocoa and Coffee Producers, has also lobbied on the issue, writing to the commission, stating that a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ would unfold if the EUDR were to be brought in on its present timescale.

While he believed that the organisation was in alignment with the EU in terms of the environmental goals of the initiative, the trade body, which represents a total of 600,000 farmers, underlined that there were many operational uncertainties surrounding its implementation and costing that needed to be urgently clarified.

As has been noted to Confectionery Production, the organisation does not represent the entire farming community in Ivory Coast, which does not at present have a single union covering all agricultural workers in the sector, which is overseen by the Conseil du Cafe-Cacao, (coffee and cocoa council), which administrates the nation’s key agricultural industry. There are presently believed to be over 2 million workers in the cocoa sector across Ivory Coast and Ghana, which accounts for 70% of the global market, though precise figures are not available.

Koffi wrote: “I would like to respectfully submit to you our concerns about the operating procedure which raises questions and which can, in our eyes, only lead to a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe which will affect our numerous farming communities.

“Indeed, the applicability of this new regulatory system reveals the following problems: a) Insufficient awareness and difficulties in understanding by the stakeholders concerned (producers, producers organisations, exporters, processors, international buyers) of the provisions of the new law.

There is also the significant administrative burden induced by the various procedures for compliance with the provisions of the new law, as well as the complexity of technological data collection systems, as well as high costs of the various procedures for compliance with the provisions of the new law.”

He also raised several other key factors that were of concern, including the present non-compliance of a significant part of national cocoa production in Ivory Coast, as well as uncertainties in the classification of countries, into specific risk categories, based on their respective levels of deforestation.

Koffi continued: “This is why we believe, as a major agricultural organisation in Ivory Coast, that a hasty implementation of this new regulatory system will have very serious economic and social repercussions on the lives of Ivorian producers as well as on all supply chain stakeholders.

“Especially since the European Union is the leading global destination for seventy percent (70%) of our cocoa and we want to preserve this relationship and improve it. We believe that an approach based on strengthening the awareness of the various stakeholders in the agricultural sectors and their support for environmental protection and regeneration initiatives in partnership with producing communities will be more relevant and productive on the long term.”

Concerns over the EUDR have also been expressed by a wide range of industry specialists and agricultural sector analysts, over core issues of who will pay for the implementation of the ambitious scheme.

There remains uncertainty over precisely how the monitoring and enforcement of the project will be delivered in often rural farming locations that are historically complex to manage, as well as fears over any potential costs for the venture being passed on to those who could least afford it – the farming communities that are already working at below poverty line pay and conditions in West Africa in particular

Marc Donaldson, a cocoa specialist and former Barry Callebaut regional manager, commented: “I think that the EUDR can work in time, but I am not sure that it will work before January 1, 2025. We can see the train coming down the tunnel, but we are still going to be standing on the tracks, which is my concern.

“If you you at what happened with Brexit, it is a similar situation. Everyone felt they were well prepared, and had read the regulations, but they were always going to interpret them differently. Can it work? Anything can work given time, but that’s not something we have with the EUDR.”


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