Ivory Coast, Ghana reject ISO certification, say it will worsen cocoa farmers plight

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The world’s two lead growers of cocoa have jointly rejected aspects of a global standard on cocoa production as inimical to the fortunes smallholder famers and the cocoa industries in the two countries in general.

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire which supply about 60 percent of the world’s cocoa, insist that those aspects of the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) 34101 Standards on Sustainable and Traceable Cocoa production would increase cost, make farmers and their farms vulnerable to third parties and generally impede production when finally implemented.

Consequently, they have unanimously called for a holistic review of the standards to incorporate the “local realities” of farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire or risk resistance and rejection when it comes to implementation.

The two countries served the notice at a joint declaration in Abidjan on Wednesday, March 13.

The declaration was separately read by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, and his Ivorian counterpart, the Director General of the Le Conseil du Café-Cacao, Kone Brahima Yves.

The two asked the global community to put the 34101 series on hold until all inimical clauses are expunged and a consensus reached on a mutually beneficiary standard on Standards on Sustainable and Traceable Cocoa production.

This is the first time the two West African neighbours are speaking with a common voice on an issue that affects both countries.

In his remarks after reading the declaration, Mr Aidoo said the position of the two countries was to ensure that other stakeholders in the cocoa business did not impose themselves on cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

“We are not against international standards,” Mr Aidoo said and added that COCOBOD and Le Conseil du Café-Cacao were also concerned about safety in the cocoa production value chain.

“But essentially, to sit and watch international bodies impose standards on our farmers is what we do not like,” he explained.

Final voting

The declaration by the two countries comes at a time when the European Union’s Committee for Standardisation (CEN) is voting to adopt the fourth part of the ISO 34101 series, which bothers on requirements for certification schemes.

Already, the committee has voted on the initial three parts, which are on requirements for sustainability management systems, requirements for performance (related to economic,social and environmental aspects) and requirements for traceability.

“This makes the ongoing voting, which commenced this month, a significant one: a positive conclusion will mean that the ISO 34101 series was now effective and all cocoa producers
would be required to comply,” COCOBOD’s CEO said.

But given the restrictions that some of the clauses are set to impose, Mr.Aidoo said cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire would be disadvantaged if the ISO 34101 series were adopted in their current form.

He said the voting was to pre-empt an action by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,hence the need for the two countries to fast-tract their action to avoid being overtaken.

“We believe that if we do not work fast on these standards and they are published and signed to, it will get to a time when their cocoa will not be bought if our farmers do not meet the standards because with every cocoa they want to trace it to the farmer and the farmer has to meet some standards,” he said.

Definition of farm He said one of the clauses that was an impediment to cocoa farmers in the two countries had to do with the definition of farmer.

“They require that all farmers should register as entrepreneurs and be able to borrow.

If you default, the bank has the right to take over the farm.

Our farmers do not have that acumen to register as entrepreneurs and we see this position as alien to our system of farming,” he said.

They also expose farmers and their farms to possible takeovers by persons that might have contributed to the farms.

With cocoa farming in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire being dominated by smallholder farmers, majority of whom do not have access to large tracts of lands for commercial farming, he said
clauses like those could not be met.

The Director General Le Conseil du Café-Cacao explained that the two countries were not against the ISO 34101 series in principle but only wanted a document that would serve the general interests of farmers, buyers and consumers.

In its current form, he said the ISO 34101 series was only beneficiary to the buyers and consumers, and not farmers who produce the beans.

Abidjan Declaration

The latest declaration by the two countries on the ISO 34101 Standards on Sustainable and Traceable Cocoa is one of the fruits of an earlier declaration by the presidents of both countries, Messers Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

Dubbed the Abidjan Declaration, the March 26,2018 consensus reaffirmed the determination of the two countries to define a common strategy towards a sustainable solution to the  in general and the two countries in particular.

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