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An International workshop on the certification of cocoa held in Cameroon

28 September 2013

From 24 to 27 June 2013, an international workshop was held in Cameroon on cocoa sector sustainability certification. The workshop was co-organised by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), the Ministry of Commerce of Cameroon, the Office National du Café et du Cacao (ONCC) and the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). The aim of the workshop was “to carry out a comprehensive review of cocoa certification, with a view to building a consensus and making recommendations on the best approach to achieve sustainability in the cocoa sector”.  

At the workshop, fears were expressed by Cameroon’s cocoa producers over the net benefits of certification for producers. While sustainability certification allows producers to gain new markets and better incomes through the payment of a price premium, it also involves increased costs. At present, there are concerns that the price premium available is not enough to compensate for the costs associated with securing sustainability certification. Cameroonian cocoa producers called for the establishment of “a fixed price premium… for all certification schemes”, with consumers rather than farmers paying the costs of certification.

At the end of the workshop, the following recommendations were adopted by the participants:

  • collecting “relevant information and materials on sustainability standards and [making] them publicly available to all stakeholders”;
  • undertaking “further consultations… aimed at ensuring better transparency and accountability in relation to price/premium setting and to increase farmers’ revenues”;
  • inviting the certification schemes to continue harmonising “training curricula and associated documentation, as well as the auditing procedures involved, in order to simplify the certification process, [and] reduce the associated costs for farmers while increasing the share of the premium that the latter receive”;
  • requesting the UNFSS “to continue its consultation process, leading to a better understanding of voluntary sustainability standards”;
  • requesting the ICCO “to facilitate a direct dialogue between the governments of cocoa exporting countries and the cocoa and chocolate industry”.

Editorial comment

The workshop in Cameroon to improve sustainability certification for cocoa producers needs to be seen against the background of the decision taken in the Netherlands to move by 2020 to using only cocoa that is certified as sustainably produced. Currently the Netherlands is the main export market for Cameroonian cocoa. (See Agritrade article ‘ Developments in cocoa and coffee processing in Cameroon’, 23 June 2013.)

It is against this background that so much importance is attached to reducing the costs of sustainability certification in such a way that the returns to farmers are not undermined. The danger is that when sustainability certification becomes the industry norm, then the price premium enjoyed as a result of sustainability certification will decline.

Careful attention therefore needs to be paid to the structure of the costs of sustainability certification and the identification of specific areas for cost savings. This may require a range of complementary government actions to minimise the costs of certification borne by cocoa producers (e.g. through strengthening and enlarging producer organisations receiving certification so that the unit costs of certification are reduced).


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