IVORY COAST – The world’s leading cocoa producing country Ivory Coast, is set to clinch €1bln (US$1.2 billion) financing from the European Union over the next six years, to aid the country’s cocoa sector adapt to EU supply chain laws towards sustainable cocoa production, due to be introduced later this year.

The loan will be provided under the “Team Europe” initiative set up by the institution to assist its member countries, with the resources expected to come from all 27 EU member states as well as financial institutions in the zone, reports Africa Business Communities.

The European Parliament has been pushing for the 27-nation bloc to introduce laws to prevent the import of commodities and products linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.

If the laws are adopted, buyers would be required to trace their inputs through every step of their supply chains, including starting at the level of small farms.

European Union represents the leading destination for Ivorian beans, accounting for 67% of the country’s cocoa exports

Companies like Nestle and Danone might have to comply with these requirements as early as 2024, indicates Reuters.

“The European consumer today wants to consume a product that comes from a sustainable production and that applies to all raw materials and all countries,” EU Ambassador to Ivory Coast Jobst von Kirchmann said.

The European Union represents the leading destination for Ivorian beans, accounting for 67% of the country’s cocoa exports.

The announced EU support comes after the launch of the joint sustainable cocoa initiative in January by the Ivorian authorities.

Despite the efforts made to combat deforestation for cocoa farming, Ivory Coast is said to have lost 47,000ha of forest to cocoa production in 2020.

This was revealed by US-based environmental group Mighty Earth which maps deforestation based on satellite data, indicating that the country has lost more than 85% of its forest cover since 1960, mainly due to cocoa farming.

The area deforested last year showed some improvement from 2015 when about 60,000 hectares were being destroyed annually.

Major chocolate companies and industry leaders, along with the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana, pledged in 2017 to eliminate the production and sourcing of cocoa from protected forests and national parks.

Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Water and Forests estimates about 20% to 30% of cocoa production comes from classified areas.

Focusing on child labour, a recent report by a research group from the University of Chicago know as NORC, revealed that 38 percent of children in Côte d’Ivoire and 55 percent of children in Ghana living in agricultural households were engaged in child labour in cocoa production during the 2018-19 season.

Amid a 62% increase in cocoa production between 2008/09 and 2018/19 in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, prevalence of child labor in cocoa production among all agricultural households increased 14 percentage points.

The findings are a blow to the cocoa and chocolate industry, which agreed a decade ago to cut the worst forms of child labour by 70% by 2020.

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