In 2019, 25% of cocoa areas were found in protected forests, reflecting weak enforcement of legal protections for these lands, the study discovered.
“Cocoa supply chains are highly exposed to deforestation, including illegal deforestation,” said Cécile Renier, a researcher at UCLouvain, who led the Trase study.
Two-thirds of Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa is exported to the EU and the UK. As ConfectioneryNews has previously reported, the EU is currently finalising legislation that would mandate scrutiny of cocoa imports for links to deforestation.
The study claimed that large multi-national cocoa suppliers were exposed to the most deforestation in their supply chains – even though companies in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) say they have mapped over 70% of their direct supplies.
“Direct supplies are only a fraction of the story,” Renier said. “Traders buy substantial volumes - sometimes most of their cocoa - from intermediaries, without knowing who those intermediaries source from. In fact, Cocoa & Forests Initiative traders mapped only 22% of national cocoa exports in 2019, and from their latest report, the situation has not evolved much since.”
Trase researchers say joint efforts between companies, governments and communities are needed. To halt cocoa-driven forest loss, companies must go beyond the traceability of their own individual supply chains to invest in initiatives at the landscape level.
“The sector could finance staffing and equipment for forest monitoring and protection efforts across cocoa-growing regions,” Renier added.
Forests and land use are central to achieving targets under the Paris Agreement, which world leaders discussed at COP27, before the conference closes on Friday (27 November).
“The threat posed by agriculture to African forests has been poorly studied compared to soy and beef in Latin America and palm oil in Indonesia,” said Dr Toby Gardner, Trase Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute. “The world needs to hear the less-than-sweet news - chocolate is eating West African forests, driving up emissions.”