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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid