Industry debates NGO admission to cocoa sector forum

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cocoa, Ghana, Cocoa bean, Côte d'ivoire, International cocoa organisation, Icco

Observer status for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on a new cocoa industry consultative board is proving a sticking point at the UN Cocoa Conference in Geneva this week, which aims to finalise the details of a new deal related to trade in the commodity.

Held under the auspices of the UN Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD, the meeting is set to conclude tomorrow and is expected to put the final touches on an International Cocoa Agreement to develop a ‘sustainable' cocoa economy.

The draft new agreement focuses on such issues as cocoa quality, the environment, and social ethics such as child labour, among others.

The current agreement, which entered into force in 2005, expires on 30 September 2012, and a new deal will provide a means of resolving the sometimes conflicting interests of cocoa farmers, exporters, importing countries and the multinational bean processors, says the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO).

So far this week the delegates have signed off on the definition of sustainability as per Article 2 of the draft agreement and a new proposal regarding market transparency, an ICCO spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews.com.

But he said that debate continues on the contentious issue of admission of NGOs as observers to the meetings of a long proposed cocoa industry advisory forum called the Consultative Board.

The Board is being set up to advise the ICCO council in relation to threats to supply and demand for the commodity and proposals to counter these, coupled with ways to strengthen the position of farmers and evaluation of how to develop a sustainable cocoa economy.

However, noted the ICCO spokesperson, producer countries are wary of giving access to certain NGOs to this outlet, “particularly as some of these international organisations have been more intent on highlighting failures rather than achievements in terms of the eradication of the use of child labour in cocoa production in West Africa in recent years.”

The low incomes of smallholder cocoa farmers are widely acknowledged to be the single most important challenge for the world cocoa economy. Prices must be sufficiently remunerative for farmers and production more efficient to ensure decent incomes for them and non-dependance on child labour.

Meanwhile, as demand continues to outstrip supply, the world price of cocoa was more than 12 per cent higher mid-June compared with a year ago, according to the ICCO.

And its Secretariat envisages a supply deficit of cocoa beans of 69,000t for the current 2009/10 cocoa year running between October 2009 and September 2010. That compares with a forecast deficit of 18,000t predicted last March.

Plus cocoa bean stocks are forecast to fall to 1.619m tonnes by 30 September 2010. That represents almost 45 per cent of the demand for cocoa beans or more than five months of stocks.

Adding to short-term supply worries are fears that the quality of production from Ivory Coast and Ghana, could be hit by high moisture contents.

Too much moisture, following high rainfall, could cause mould in the crop which would adversely affect quality, according to trade sources.

Production in Ivory Coast could also be affected by a viral disease, and growers’ representatives have asked for government help in combating swollen-shoot disease which can be controlled only by burning infected trees.

Related topics: Commodities, Cocoa & Sugar

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