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EUDR: Practical insights into cocoa cooperatives’ challenges and costs

11 junho 2024

EUDR: Practical insights into cocoa cooperatives’ challenges and costs

Côte d’Ivoire’s socio-economic wellbeing is intricately intertwined with cocoa, which creates 14% of its gross domestic product, and supplies 45% of global cocoa production – making it the largest cocoa producer in the world. But most Ivorian cocoa farmers scrape by on less that one dollar a day. For them, the cost of compliance with sustainability norms that will soon become applicable is a daunting prospect. New NGO research offers practical insights into the costs to farmer cooperatives of implementing sustainability measures, and provides concrete suggestions for how to support cooperatives with these costs.  

Both the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) and the African regional standard for sustainable cocoa (ARS-1000, applicable in Côte d’Ivoire via Décret n° 2022-393 du 8 juin 2022) share the crucial ambition of putting an end to the deforestation linked to cocoa production; both will enter into force in late 2024. Their implementation presents a variety of real-world challenges for farmer cooperatives.  

To begin, even to consider whether cocoa production caused deforestation, the ability to geo-locate cocoa plots and establish traceability back to the production site is needed. In May 2024, Fern’s partner Initiatives pour le Développement communautaire et la conservation de la Forêt (IDEF), supported by Commerce Équitable France, published the results of research into the costs for farmer cooperatives of putting in place the traceability and geo-localisation aspects of the rules, considering both initial investments (e.g., equipment), and recurring costs (e.g., salaries).  

In order to examine actual, rather than hypothetical challenges and costs, IDEF chose six farmer cooperatives from the 10% of Ivorian producers that are certified Fair Trade, and therefore both used to dealing with certain types of obligations and enjoying some capacity support. Of these, five also had organic certification. IDEF also surveyed one cooperative with no certification or support from outside programmes to serve as a control.  

The results were eye-opening. For a cooperative, registering the farms of all their members requires, concretely, new personnel and training, and new computers, GPS systems, and a moped. As each company buying cocoa asks the cooperative to fulfil the company’s own data requirements, this can entail multiple spreadsheets and software. The research also showed that even certified cooperatives with existing traceability systems in place are not geo-locating the plots of all of their farmers: a cooperative of 500 members can be certified with only 300 members participating, by simply separating cocoa into ‘certified’ and ‘ordinary’ stocks. This segregation also costs time and money. 

To address this situation, IDEF directs specific recommendations to the EU, certification bodies, companies, and cooperatives.  

Smallholder support, such as through the Team Europe Initiative (FW 291), is an essential step. The EU should help with the costs of initial investments needed for compliance, but also keep an eye on recurring costs: the price of cacao must cover the latter. They also ask the EU to ensure that EU operators do not simply shift the documentary burden of compliance to small producers, and to provide assistance in developing training programmes for the personnel dealing with monitoring and internal management tools. EUDR Article 30 could be used to support Côte d’Ivoire’s development of a robust, transparent national traceability system that would spare cooperatives the costs of complying with many different systems. For their part, companies should also simplify cooperatives’ burden by supporting and participating in a national system – and by financially supporting compliance. 

The EUDR and ARS-1000 are critical tools, but complying with them requires support for small farmers. The EU’s commitment to halting deforestation – and our voracious chocolate habit – must not come at the cost of a decent living for local producers.

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Categorias: News, Forest Watch, EU Regulation on deforestation-free products, Cote d’Ivoire

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