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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

update At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid