In a statement, the Coalition said: “We welcome in particular the application of the due diligence requirements throughout the cocoa and chocolate supply chain within the EU; the potential use of independent means of verification, such as satellite imaging, to underpin the information requirements; the application of the benchmarking risk analysis system within, as well as between, countries; the clear obligations on competent authorities for minimum levels of checks on companies, and minimum levels of penalties; and the inclusion of ‘substantiated concerns’ provisions for third parties to raise concerns over infringements of the legislation.”
In particular, the coalition welcomed the levelling up of the proposed new legislation and said it has the potential to reinforce producer-country efforts to establish a sustainable cocoa sector for the long term … “as long as the burdens of compliance are shared fairly throughout the supply chain and cocoa farmers are not left to bear additional costs without adequate support”.
With regard to cocoa, the Coalition said it also supports the inclusion of the requirement for full geolocation information on the origin of the products covered by the regulation. The efforts made by companies in the Cocoa Coalition and in the wider cocoa sector have shown how traceability systems, including geolocation information, can be implemented effectively even in complex supply chains featuring a very high proportion of smallholder farmers.
“We recognise the critical role of producer-country governments, alongside companies, certification organisations and others, in rolling out traceability systems to the farm level, and the progress led by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in setting up national traceability systems. We also recognise the inherent challenges in expanding these systems to cover the full supply chain, which is made up of millions of smallholder farmers, many of which are currently not part of formal farmer organisations.”
For this reason, it said it is essential that the European Commission conducts a comprehensive needs assessment of the challenges that will be faced by smallholder farmers in complying with the regulation and the support that they will require.
The Coalition said: “The assessment should pay particular attention to support for smallholder farmers, including for the establishment and comprehensive roll-out of traceability systems, which will prove particularly challenging for those smallholders who are currently not part of farmer organisations. It should also be gender-sensitive, taking into account the different barriers, needs and capacities of women farmers. This needs assessment will inform the scale and type of support that will need to be mobilised by the EU and its member states and by companies in the sector.”
In its opinion, it said the assessment should be initiated as soon as possible and should not wait until the regulation has entered into force. It also revealed that it has submitted other proposed amendments to any legislation to key MEPs and said the needs assessment should also analyse the need for support for smallholders who have farmed in compliance with national law but in a way that caused deforestation after 31 December 2020 but before they had any knowledge of the regulation, to ensure that they are not left destitute.