The sixth International Cocoa Agreement in three decades came into force at the beginning of October, heralding a break from the past with the exclusion of market regulatory mechanisms - production quotas, buffer stocks and other price support measures.
The heart of the agreement is a greater emphasis on a sustainable global cocoa economy and, for the first time, it will look for the active involvement of the private sector in the achievement of its goals.
Discussed at the sixty-eighth regular session of the International Cocoa Council in the Dominican Republic in September 2003, the International Cocoa Council agreed that the new board - an important new dimension for the agreement - would be decided by December 2003, with the first meeting set to take place in January 2004.
Other measures in the new agreement include a call for increased transparency in the world cocoa market through statistical collection and analysis.
A range of projects called for by the agreement, including the creation of farmer co-operatives and the development of new farming methods, is intended to strengthen the national cocoa economies of exporting countries, many of which depend on such commodities for their livelihood.
Negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the agreement was ratified on 1 May 2001 by leading exporting and importing countries.
At the beginning of October the bulk of the world's leading cocoa exporting and importing countries had ratified, approved, signed or given notification of provisional application of the agreement, enabling it to be put into force provisionally.
The seven exporting countries are Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria and Togo and the 18 importing countries are composed of the fifteen EU Member States plus Russia, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland.
The agreement will remain open for signature until 20 September 2010 and all major players in the cocoa market are expected to sign shortly.
Media reports this week from the Ivory Coast - the world's top cocoa producer - write that cocoa co-operatives and farmers' leaders in the country have proposed to halt all sales of cocoa beans in order to drive up prices. Cocoa - a primary commodity - has seen prices falling steadily over the years.