There are several issues affecting the sustainability of the world cocoa economy. The value cocoa farmers get for their cocoa within the value chain is unsustainable as it does not allow them to achieve a decent standard of living for them and their families. This has created a crisis on the production side due to farmers not properly taking care of their farms and younger generations of farmers leaving the countryside to migrate to cities in search of jobs.
Currently there are several efforts, led by various stakeholders in the cocoa sector, to determine what the living income for cocoa farmers should be, how to calculate it, and ultimately how to apply it within the cocoa value chain.
Poverty among cocoa farmers in certain regions has led to other forms of sustainability issues, such as cases of child labour in cocoa farms, or deforestation linked to the expansion of cocoa production. It is worth noting that these issues do not affect all cocoa producing regions, but rather are focalized on certain areas where efforts need to be increased.
At a global level, cocoa production is not the main driving force behind global deforestation. However, in recent years, smallholding cocoa farming has attracted the spotlight for being the driver in some deforestation hotspots. And this development occurred despite the presence of certification schemes which were created to deliver a sustainable cocoa production.
During 2018, the issue of deforestation gained momentum, capturing the attention of governments and lawmakers. Several European governments called for concrete actions, especially to address the deforestation in the cocoa sector. The European Parliament held a hearing on “Cocoa and Coffee – devastating rainforests and driving child labour” on 11 July 2018, and a brainstorming session on “Developing legally binding approaches to address child labour and deforestation in EU cocoa imports” on 21 November 2018.
In December 2018, the European Commission (EC) initiated a consultation of citizens and stakeholders on the broad issue of deforestation and forest degradation. During this consultation process, the ICCO Secretariat encouraged its Member countries to provide feedback on the EC’s initiative, and also provided feedback directly to the initiative. Furthermore, during the 99th statutory session of the ICCO Council, in April 2019, Members drafted a Communiqué as a response to the EC initiative.
In July 2019, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, with a coherent and comprehensive policy framework to tackle deforestation and forest degradation in commodity supply chains.