Ghana, Ivory Coast protest ISO cocoa standards

Ghana and Ivory Coast have registered their displeasure against attempts by some major stakeholders in the global cocoa industry to impose certain standards on farmers in West Africa which will render them jobless if implemented finally.

At a press conference on Wednesday in Abidjan, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Yves Brahima Kone, Director General of the Cocoa-Coffee Board, said some aspects of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) 34101 Standards on Sustainable and Traceable cocoa, which were currently being voted on for acceptance by all cocoa producers and farmers worldwide, were hugely skewed in favour of some members of cocoa buyers in the European Union’s Committee for Standardization.

Voting started on March 8, this year, and is expected to end on 20th March, this year to set the tone for the global cocoa industry and determine either gains or losses for farmers whose livelihoods mainly depend on cocoa.

The standards are captured into four (4) parts namely part 1: which encompasses requirements for sustainability management systems; part 2: which talks about requirements for performance (related to economic, social and environmental aspects); part 3: which concerns requirements for traceability and part 4: which addresses requirements for certification schemes.

He said Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were working on reviewing the new standards because “the moment we sign these, they become obligatory and our members have to comply. This is the time we have to change aspects that would be harmful to our farmers and ourselves.”

“There is an aspect which says that the farmer has to develop a cocoa farm development plan and then have an audit structure. So every year, that plan will be audited and then certain standards the farmer has to meet will be audited. Once the farmer fails, it means that farmer cannot be registered for that year for his cocoa to be bought. So there are so many aspects of the ISO 34101 that we think look inimical. They do not serve the interest of our farmers and must be given a second look.”

A joint declaration read by Mr Aidoo and Mr Kone emphasised that they were cognizant of the fact that at the conclusion of the development of the standards, the majority of member countries of the ISO voted for the publication of Parts 1, 2 and 3, whilst the majority of member countries of the CEN, in clear disagreement, voted against the publication of parts 1 and 2.