EU lawmakers call for pact on cocoa prices with Ivory Coast and Ghana

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ABIDJAN, May 9 (Reuters) - A group of European Union parliamentarians has asked the European Commission to open negotiations with Ivory Coast and Ghana to address low cocoa prices, it said in a letter.

The two West African countries, which together produce more than 60% of the world's cocoa, called on the EU earlier this year to join them in creating an economic pact which would ensure cocoa farmers earn a living wage.

Most cocoa farmers in these countries live in extreme poverty, earning well under $1 a day, said a letter signed by members of the Responsible Business Conduct Working Group of the European Parliament.

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Low prices paid for cocoa are a key driver of deforestation and child labour in the sector, which are of concern to the EU as it seeks to prevent imports of commodities linked to environmental and human rights abuses.

"We urge the Commission to rapidly engage in formal negotiations with the governments of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana with the aim of reaching an Economic Pact for Sustainable Cocoa," said the letter seen by Reuters, dated April 27.

The pact would entail an agreement between all parties on what to do to resolve the low price of cocoa and manage cocoa supply to prevent market shocks, it said.

An EU Commission spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EU is the leading destination for Ivorian cocoa, accounting for about 67% of the country's exports.

But a newly proposed EU law could force cocoa traders to drop some suppliers because they use unethical practices.

"In view of the environmental and social provisions implemented by the EU and many other countries in term of regulations, an 'Economic Pact' is now necessary... in order to satisfy the first condition of sustainability," said Alex Assanvo, head of the Ivory Coast-Ghana Cocoa Initiative, set up by both governments.

Both countries in 2019 imposed a "living income" premium on all cocoa purchases in order to raise farmers' wages, but they said last year that traders were not paying it. read more

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Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Sandra Maler

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