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Regulations needed to stem cocoa sector abuses - report

LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Regulations are needed to end poverty, human rights abuses and deforestation in the cocoa sector after two decades of voluntary interventions that have had little to no impact, a major report on cocoa sustainability said on Tuesday.

The Cocoa Barometer, a landmark biennial report published by a global network of non-governmental organisations and trade unions, calls on governments of major consuming nations to introduce laws that hold companies accountable for deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chains.

The report also said a fair price for cocoa farmers is crucial, and that cocoa and chocolate companies must find a way to deliver this.

“Twenty years into rhetoric, the challenges on the ground remain as large as ever. Poverty is still the daily reality for virtually all West African cocoa farmer families, child labour remains rife and old growth forests continue to be cleared to make way for cocoa production,” it said.

The report comes after Ivory Coast and Ghana said in a letter they are cancelling cocoa sustainability schemes that U.S.-based chocolatemaker Hershey runs in their countries, accusing the firm of trying to avoid paying a cocoa premium aimed at combating farmer poverty.

Hershey said in response it is fully participating in the scheme to pay West African farmers a living wage and will continue to do so.

The Barometer also struck a more upbeat note.

It said there is real opportunity for change as many chocolate companies are themselves asking for regulations, the European Union is drafting such rules, and Ivory Coast and Ghana have pledged to guarantee farmers a living wage.

The west African nations, which produce two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, have introduced a $400 a tonne cocoa premium to raise farmer income. (Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Jan Harvey)