ECA Cocoa Forum 2022

Times are a changing: ECA Cocoa Forum returns to fresh pressures – and opportunities

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

One of the opening sessions from this year's ECA Cocoa Forum. Pic: CN
One of the opening sessions from this year's ECA Cocoa Forum. Pic: CN

Related tags: ECA, Cocoa, Sustainability

Three years since its last gathering in Lisbon, the ECA Cocoa Forum wasted no time in getting back down to business in Rome as part of its wider remit to facilitate dialogue on how to move the industry forward in key areas including food safety, sustainability, and socio-economic considerations.

With announcements expected on key decisions at the end of the Forum on how to safeguard and direct the future of the cocoa sector, the opening sessions on day one looked at the European Commission’s Green Deal and the banning of pesticides along with its Farm to Fork Sustainability Strategy and its impact on cocoa production regarding exports to the EU market. How can the industry best manage regulatory change and how can it guarantee quality in cocoa production by strengthening food safety monitoring? These were just some of the questions asked.

But first, the opening address, from Harold Poelma President of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate and an ECA Board Member. “A lot has happened since our last Forum​,” he told over 400 delegates at Rome’s historic Hotel Villa Pamphili, the venue’s forum.

The European Commission has shown that it truly cares about the cocoa sector. With concrete initiatives, I commend the European Commission for the work carried out with the EU multi-stakeholder dialogue for sustainable cocoa -- Harold Poelma

“The cocoa and chocolate sector is very much a people business,” he said, welcoming lots of new faces to the Forum. “I look back at the two and a half years of Covid – and for me one thing stands out … the demand for chocolate has shown tremendous resilience.

“Consumers around the world continue to turn to chocolates to provide comfort and joy. With countries going into lockdown travel, coming to a standstill and restaurants forced to close. We have witnessed the very rapid shift in channels to still reach, consumers, around the world.”

The agility of the sector has been impressive, he said. “It's a tribute to the ability of the companies in our sector to respond to the crisis and is attributed to the loyalty of consumers in their love for chocolate.”

But he cautioned that the industry is living in times of change due to multiple factors affecting the global economy, such as availability of natural gas, particularly for European companies, and the threat of reduced productivity in producing countries because of the lack of fertilisers.

On the demand side there is pressure on purchasing power because of significant inflation and changing preferences will influence consumer behaviour​,” he said.

Poelma reminded people that the Coca Forum is also taking place within the context of significant developments in both the European Union and in origin countries.

Such as the development of national traceability systems, reforestation programmes, and initiatives to achieve a living income for cocoa farmers, along with eradicating child labour … to name a few​.”

The European Union’s legislative push is a hot topic at this year’s Forum, with the demand for deforestation-free products and due diligence on corporate sustainability

The European Commission has shown that it truly cares about the cocoa sector. With concrete initiatives, I commend the European Commission for the work carried out with the EU multi-stakeholder dialogue for sustainable cocoa. The EU cocoa talks, which is now entering a new phase, has become the alliance on sustainable cocoa​,” he said.

Supply and demand

Poelma closed his speech by saying he was not only confident about the future of ECA but was also optimistic about the prospects of the cocoa sector as a whole from the farmer to the consumer.

The first day of talks concluded with a session on supply and demand functionality, which is a critical aspect in the current context of achieving price stability for cocoa, Innovation in the sector was also discussed with the need to balance productivity and environmental goals and delegates were informed about how Brazil is moving towards a new model of cocoa farming focused on the adoption of sustainable practices and intensive use of technology.

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