European Commission responds to ten crucial EUDR deforestation questions

As the clock counts down for the final few months before the anticipated EUDR regulations, the European Commission has answered ten crucial questions surrounding the landmark policy’s delivery, reports Antony Myers.

Notably, as Confectionery Production has reported this past week, the US government, along with major farming groups in Ivory Coast and in Malaysia, have sought to delay the delivery of the scheme following concerns from businesses within cocoa and other markets including the timber trade, have voiced concerns about the roll-out of its complex satellite ‘geomapping’ based compliance system.

When The European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) comes into force in six months [30 December 2024], it will prohibit the sale of commodities, including cocoa, coffee, soy, and palm oil, into the bloc unless strict traceability measures are proven to show such goods have not been farmed in protected areas.

While the cocoa sector has broadly welcomed the legislation, we can report serious misgivings about its implementation, leading to calls for it to be delayed until further guidelines from the European Commission are available.

The EUDR is one of the shortest-ever pieces of legislation passed by Brussels to guarantee that the products EU citizens consume do not contribute to deforestation or forest degradation worldwide. The regulations also cover derived products, which in the case of cocoa means chocolate.

Up until now, the EC has remained relatively silent on the ruling, which was passed in June 2023 – but in an interview obtained by journalist Tony Myers for the CocoaRadar website the EC confirmed there is no ‘Plan B’, and the legislation will become effective at the end of this year.

In reply to 10 crucial questions regarding the EUDR’s implementation, the Commission has confirmed that it is working on further guidelines detailing the Regulation’s aspects and said: “These guidelines will be made available as soon as they are finalised.”

It also confirmed that it had set aside several financial programmes to support smallholder cocoa farmers, some of whom are already struggling to provide a living income for their families due to crop deficits and poor farm investments.

Notably, the EC said a Team Europe Initiative (€70 million) and the SAFE Programme (€40 million) have been set up to provide financial and technical support to enhance deforestation-free supply chains in partner countries, paying specific attention to smallholders’ needs.

“The Commission is committed to helping partners reduce deforestation and forest degradation by supporting them in strengthening forest governance, developing legislation, and fostering capacities. The Forest Partnerships, a new development cooperation tool, will tackle deforestation as one of its objectives. Acknowledging that one size does not fit all, Forest Partnerships will be tailor-made to the partner country’s needs.”

Regarding the specific burden to cocoa farmers, the EC said: “It is important to remember that the legal obligations under the Regulation apply to the operator placing products on the EU market, which is the last part of the supply chain.

“Operators will need information from earlier parts of the supply chains. Still, the actual burden on producers is very small: providing the geolocation data, which can be obtained with low-key technical means and only needs to be established once.

“Geolocation information can be obtained through widespread, accessible technology and only needs to be established once (one-off cost).”

But satellite mapping experts have warned that free or generic software the Commission is proposing that farmers use for to map their farm may not be fit for purpose.

Dr Kristy Leissle, Founder & CEO of African Cocoa Marketplace, has over 20 years of experience as a researcher and consultant in West Africa.

She said: “The burden that the EUDR places on farmers is not ‘small.’ Nor does the required polygon farm mapping rely only upon ‘free’ technology. There are many layers – and costs – to collecting the necessary data to prove a farmer is compliant and ‘deserves’ to retain EU market access”

Caroline Busse, Co-Founder & CEO at Nadar, a Satellite Monitoring & EUDR Compliance specialist, said: “The EUDR has caused a lot of turmoil, with companies progressing to implement their due diligence systems and service providers popping up to support them in checking the deforestation-free status of their plots.

“At Nadar, we have noticed that the accuracy of the data used to prepare for the upcoming regulation is often limited. One data product regularly used in this context is the public Global Forest Change data. Although GFW may be a good tool for conducting large-scale analyses of forest trends and patterns at the global, national, or regional level, it should not be used for business-sensitive assessments.”

The EC said that “If an operator (or trader that is not an SME) placing a commodity on the market is unable to comply with the EUDR, they must refrain from placing the relevant products on the market or exporting them.”

Industry expert Anthony Myers, of the CocoaRadar website, commented: “I have been reporting on the EUDR for the past 12 months, and there is a definite information gap between the EC and and producers as we get closer to the deadline.

“While the cocoa sector has shown a willingness to clean up its act regarding sustainability issues such as deforestation and child labour, the EUDR, in its present form, seems more part of the problem than a solution and Brussels needs to listen to the cocoa farmers and the various organisations that work with them.”

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