Beyond Cocoa, Ivory Coast Seeks to Produce Greener Raw Materials

Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, plans to raise ethical standards for all its key exports as it faces increasing consumer pressure to grow the chocolate ingredient more sustainably.

The West African nation, which accounts for about 40% of cocoa output, is working to tackle deforestation and the use of child labor, while also improving farmers’ incomes to continue exporting to the European Union, which buys almost 70% of its output, according to Prime Minister Patrick Achi.

“We’ve been working on a lot of legislation and now we are doing our best on the implementation side,” Achi told the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday. “We are going to be ready for the EU legislation, which will not only be about cocoa but many other areas,” he said. The 27-nation bloc could adopt new sustainability rules by the end of the year.

Cocoa accounts for roughly half of Ivorian exports, which include rubber, oil and gold. While its exploitation has contributed to the country losing more than 80% of its forest cover since the 1960s, that trend is showing signs of progress. Ivory Coast now seeks to expand forest area to 20% of its territory by 2030.

Farmer poverty remains a challenge, which the government has sought to address by charging cocoa buyers from Cargill Inc. to Nestle SA a $400-per-ton premium over futures prices. Child labor is also an issue, with a report last year showing that the problem actually got worse in the 10 years leading to the 2018-2019 season despite chocolate companies’ pledges to cut the practice.

“In our 2030 vision, we are going over every single material that we are working in to be sure that it will be produced, paying attention and respecting sustainability, which is now, as far as world consumers are concerned, a serious matter,” said Achi.

Other Highlights

  • On the Living-Income Differential: “On this kind of project, starting is not always easy,” said Achi. “By the next campaign, things should be much smoother. We don’t see why things wouldn’t move forward.”
  • On the Ecowas common currency: “In the CFA zone, we were not in the same position as the other countries, we were tied with Europe and with France with some agreements and we needed to do some homework to be ready to move from the CFA to the eco very easily and smoothly,” he said. “We had to lose the ties we have with France, so that when the time arrives to move to the Eco of Ecowas, we’ll be ready.”
  • On France’s plan to withdraw its Barkhane military force: “We still need help. We cannot comment on the French decision but what we are saying is that Ecowas is also preparing ways to be able to defend itself against terrorists,” he said. “I think there will be a road map that will be discussed with all the concerned countries and, step-by-step as we prepare to fight the terrorists ourselves. I think France will retreat slowly and smoothly.”

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