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

Yemen Brings US, Iran Closer to Naval Face-off

US sending two more ships to waters off coast of Yemen to take part in 'maritime security operations' More

Minorities Become Majority Across US

From 2000 to 2013, minorities became the majority in 78 counties in the United States. Here's where those demographic shifts are happening More

Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

Seven-car 'magnetic levitation' train traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour during test run Tuesday More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs