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Study finds around 15% of Ivory Coast’s cocoa farms are in protected forest

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A farmer prepares to collect a cocoa pod at a cocoa farm in Alepe, Ivory Coast December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

Around 15% of cocoa farms in the world’s top grower Ivory Coast are in protected forest areas, potentially breaching standards expected in upcoming European Union law, a study commissioned by the country’s sector regulator found.

The findings, seen by Reuters and presented to an EU delegation in Abidjan, are the first of their kind.

"The results of the census provide a reliable database, which is essential for the strategic development of the coffee and cocoa sector," the study by the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) said.

Lawmakers from the EU, Ivory Coast's biggest trading partner, have called for legislation to prevent the import of commodities and products linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.

The study shows the Ivory Coast, which accounts for around 40% of global cocoa production, has verifiable data that could ensure a cocoa traceability and certification system from the plantations to the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro.

The origin of each bean will be certified on the basis of data from the farmers, and the CCC could automatically reject beans generated in protected forest areas by farmers who are illegally farming there, it said.

Under law that the European Commission, the EU executive, is expected to propose later this year, all agricultural raw materials exported to the 27 member states would have to demonstrate a system of traceability, certification, forest protection, and show they fight against producer poverty.

The study, which included identifying all cocoa farmers, said there were about a million small cocoa producers who farm more than 2.5 million hectares in Ivory Coast.

Payments to farmers will also be facilitated through a new cash-less system, including via mobile money, the report said.

“The farmers will be paid directly by buyers and cooperatives without going through middlemen who have up until now been the main intermediaries,” it said.

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