Pests and diseases cause serious yield losses to cocoa production worldwide. Although there are non-chemical ways to manage them, the use of agro-chemicals is currently unavoidable. Meanwhile, cocoa consuming countries have expressed their concerns regarding the health risks associated with the use of agro-chemicals in cocoa production. As a result, some cocoa importing countries have enacted legislative and regulatory measures on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) standards that have to be met by imported cocoa. The food safety concerns that affect cocoa relate to pesticides residues and other harmful substances such as Ochratoxin “A” (OTA), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), Free Fatty Acids (FFA) and heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
The pesticide residue regulations published by the European Union (EU), the USA and Japan, if not properly adhered to, could affect cocoa trade and consequently deprive cocoa smallholder farmers and their governments of much needed revenues required for poverty alleviation programmes.
Consequently, it is crucial to assist cocoa producing countries to strengthen their expertise and capacity to implement international SPS standards, thus improving their ability to gain or maintain market access for their cocoa beans. This approach includes the enhancement of the capacity of cocoa farmers and other stakeholders in the cocoa supply chain to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Warehousing Practices (GWP).
A study conducted in cocoa producing countries in Africa by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), funded by the the Standards and Trade Development Facility of the World Trade Organization (STDF/WTO) to establish the capacity of these countries to comply with international Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) standards, revealed three main issues that need to be addressed to strengthen SPS capacity in cocoa producing countries in Africa. These are:
(i) quantification of the levels of risk from contaminants and other harmful substances introduced into the cocoa supply chain;
(ii) provision of specific information on pesticides and other SPS issues to all stakeholders in the supply chain and
(iii) adequate infrastructure to monitor and enforce SPS standards.
The project on SPS Capacity Building in Africa to Mitigate the Harmful Effects of Pesticide Residues in Cocoa and to Maintain Market Access formulated by the ICCO Secretariat and partly funded by the STDF/WTO and EDES/COLEACP is designed to improve the capacity of cocoa producing countries in Africa to produce cocoa that complies with relevant international regulations and legislation on pesticide residues and other harmful substances.