Ghana and Ivory Coast have registered their displeasure against attempts by some major stakeholders in the global cocoa industry to impose certain standards on farmers in West Africa which will render them jobless if implemented finally.
At a press conference on Wednesday in Abidjan, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Yves Brahima Kone, Director General of the Cocoa-Coffee Board, said some aspects of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) 34101 Standards on Sustainable and Traceable cocoa, which were currently being voted on for acceptance by all cocoa producers and farmers worldwide, were hugely skewed in favour of some members of cocoa buyers in the European Union’s Committee for Standardization.
Voting started on 8th March, this year, and is expected to end on 20th March, this year to set the tone for the global cocoa industry and determine either gains or losses for farmers whose livelihoods mainly depend on cocoa.
The standards are captured into four (4) parts namely part 1: which encompasses requirements for sustainability management systems; part 2: which talks about requirements for performance (related to economic, social and environmental aspects); part 3: which concerns requirements for traceability and part 4: which addresses requirements for certification schemes.
He said Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were working on reviewing the new standards because “the moment we sign these, they become obligatory and our members have to comply. This is the time we have to change aspects that would be harmful to our farmers and ourselves.”
Trouble for smallholder farmers
“There is an aspect which says that the farmer has to develop a cocoa farm development plan and then have an audit structure. So every year, that plan will be audited and then certain standards the farmer has to meet will be audited. Once the farmer fails, it means that farmer cannot be registered for that year for his cocoa to be bought. So there are so many aspects of the ISO 34101 that we think look inimical. They do not serve the interest of our farmers and must be given a second look.”
Bidding for farmers
Mr. Boahen Aidoo said Ghana and Ivory Coast wanted to prove to the world that the upcoming ISO standards on cocoa certification and traceability would not augur well for farmers.
In an interview with DAILY GUIDE, the COCOBOD CEO stated that “essentially, these have been crafted in such a way that they import a lot of burden on our cocoa farmers, in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria. These target smallholder farmers and as I said we are dealing with a very sophisticated market. The people who crafted the standards basically are from the European Union (CEN) committee for standardization. They crafted these and sent them to the international standards organisation (ISO). They did it just to suit the taste of the European Union and carry the concerns of the EU.
“Now when we look at the whole thing, eventually when it is implemented, our farmers will be worse off, because there are a lot of things that will restrain our farmers even from farming. So those provisions ought to be changed.”
In this regard, they asserted that the application of the said ISO 34101 series in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana had been put on hold to enable the two countries to complete their work.”
A joint declaration read by Mr Aidoo and Mr Kone emphasised that they were cognizant of the fact that at the conclusion of the development of the standards, the majority of member countries of the ISO voted for the publication of Parts 1, 2 and 3, whilst the majority of member countries of the CEN, in clear disagreement, voted against the publication of parts 1 and 2.
They also said they were mindful of the fact that the vote on part 4 “is ongoing; conscious of the failure to reach consensus among the stakeholders in the cocoa value chain in approving the contents of the ISO 34101 series, it is hereby declared that Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, through Le Conseil du Café-Cacao and Ghana Cocoa Board, have agreed to take into consideration certain aspects of the ISO Standards that are appropriate to the two countries and make the necessary improvements to address the interests and concerns of all stakeholders in the cocoa sector.”
The two organizations furthermore declared that they have recognized the general interest in the production of sustainable and traceable cocoa in the cocoa value chain; taken note of the paramount importance placed on quality, sustainability and traceability in the value chain; and were cognizant of the fact that the international cocoa prices did not take into account the massive efforts required from cocoa farmers in complying with the strict demands of consumers in the production of sustainable and traceable cocoa.