News / Africa

    European Regulations Worry African Cocoa Exporters

    Ntaryike Divine Jr.
    Recent findings indicate a decline in quality among some cocoa exports.  Now, European Union food safety legislators are intending to stiffen regulations that could make it more difficult to sell the commodity.

    The announcement has sparked concern across West Africa, where thousands of farmers grow about 70 percent of global cocoa supplies

    The measures take effect in April.  EU food safety officials say they’re driven by a drop in quality, and rising health safety concerns among chocolate consumers.

    The move follows additional pressure for the certification of all segments of the cocoa supply chain from the fields to world markets.  Officials want to be sure producers are growing the crop in an environmentally sustainable and ethical way.  They also want to be sure producers can prove the origins of their cocoa.

    Michael Ndoping is chair of the National Cocoa and Coffee Board in Cameroon.  He says a combination of issues is posing a threat to consumers.  One is the increased use of pesticides.  Others are improper fermentations, and unsanitary processing methods like drying cocoa beans on tarred road surfaces or in smoky ovens.

    "The final consumers in Europe, America, Asia and even Africa are very conscious about food safety," he said. "You don’t want to poison people.  Quality is a very sensitive issue.  And it’s not just for the consumers.  It concerns us Africans who are producing as well.  Imagine a farmer who goes to spray a cocoa plant and half of the chemical is poured on him.  His life is at risk. "

    A major target of the enhanced EU scrutiny is cadmium, a cancer-causing metallic substance increasingly detected in imported cocoa.  Medical authorities say it’s also a trigger for kidney failure as well as bone and reproduction complications. 

    It’s used in the production of fertilizers and batteries, plastics and glass pigmentation, and in steel-plating. These activities release cadmium into the environment, where it accumulates in the soil and water and is eventually ingested by animals and plants including cocoa.

    Research ordered by the European Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, CONTAM, indicate that chocolate is among surveyed foodstuffs with very high concentrations of the substance.  The EU says it is banning from its markets cocoa with cadmium-contents higher than 0.2mg per kg.

    The alert has sparked concern across West Africa where farmers grow three-quarters of the world’s annual production of nearly four million tons.

    Ndoping says "It’s a real concern. When we were informed, we carried out a quick survey – we collected cocoa beans and soil samples from certain areas and did some preliminary tests that showed that the limits being fixed by the European regulations are way above what we found.  That doesn’t mean we’re free.  It’s a process that has to be constant."

    The region’s cocoa-producing countries are demanding a five-year delay of the EU measures so they can adjust and protect the livelihoods of millions of mostly small-scale farmers.  Additionally, cocoa accounts for 40 percent of the state budget in the Ivory Coast, 30 percent in Ghana and contributes two percent to the GDP in Cameroon.     

    In the meantime, demand is predicted to increase over the next decade by one million tons. In response, output is expected to rise among leading producers, including the Ivory Coast, which produces over one million tons per year, as well as in Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria.

    Cameroon, the world’s fifth largest grower also plans to increase harvests from 220,000 tons to 600,000 tons annually by 2015. 

    But experts like Professor Maladji Adoroka worry if the planned production increases will meet the new quality requirements and earn better prices for farmers. Madoroka is the Director of the National Research Institute of Nigeria.

    "The matter remains," says Adoroka, "who determines the price of cocoa? There’s climate change.  Does the buyer care about that?  Is the seller not affected? You talk of cadmium – who brings cadmium?  Is it in the produce that you bring for us to spray or in the ground, or where from?"

    He says though cocoa prices have been attractive over the past two decades; they are low considering the expense involved in improving quality for world markets.

    "You say you want this quality, you want that quality," says Madoroka. "You want this standard, you want that standard.  At what price?  Better quality is always commanding better price.  Who will be encouraged to increase quality if the price is not changing?"

    Since the start of the year, hundreds of plantations across West Africa have been wrecked by recurring black pod disease epidemics, marauding pests and heavy rains.   Meanwhile, farms and farmers are ageing; farm-to-market transportation is difficult, as is access to land and processing facilities, and funding for expensive inputs.

    Experts say these challenges have had an impact on West Africa's cocoa quality.  Ed Sequain works with a major cocoa importer in the US. 

    "My job," he says, "is to taste chocolate.  Specifically, what I do is to ensure that as we are using tools to bring productivity, yield disease-resistant material to farmers; that we don’t lose track of flavor. Flavor is the reason chocolate exists."

    He says increasingly, African farmers are compromising quality as they rush for attractive world market prices.

    "It’s a serious problem," Sequaine says, "because farmers have been put under pressure both economically and environmentally.  With the ageing of the cocoa trees, quality has declined.  Rejection rates are at all-time high both in Europe and in the US for African cocoa."

    But officials say they are banking on ongoing research to improve soil quality, introduce better-yielding resistant varieties as well as educate farmers on best practices.

    Listen to report on the EU's new cocoa regulations
    Listen to report on new cocoa regulationsi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

    America's young people are about to take over and here's what we can expect from them

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Coffee Beans from: Lisbon
    February 01, 2013 10:44 PM
    what we found is an increase in cyanide and heady metals in the African coffee production which puts our costumers in health jeopardy... most of the production facilities are Chinese owned.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora