So what's the problem?
West Africa produces approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa, much of it grown by smallholder, resource poor farmers. However, production is seriously affected by pests, such as cocoa mirids, and diseases including a virulent form of Black Pod disease. These can cause considerable damage to the crop and lead to significant reductions in yield and bean quality. To help reduce the level of damage, many cocoa producers and traders apply chemical pesticides as a means of pest and disease control.
Although a variety of pesticides are approved for use on cocoa, these are frequently used without appropriate safety precautions being taken. Other, unapproved products are also used, some of which are highly toxic. Unfortunately there is little information available on which chemicals are being used, for what purpose, when, how and by whom. This has hampered efforts to reduce the use of unsuitable pesticides, as well as attempts to protect those who use the chemicals, the environment and the cocoa community as a whole.
In recognition of the harm that chemical pesticides can cause to human and animal health, new legislation has been introduced in the European Union (EU). European Commission Regulation EC/396/2005, which came into force in September 2008, defines the maximum levels of residues (MRLs) of chemical substances permitted in food and feedstuffs intended for consumption in the EU. Importantly, it applies to all EU Member States and also applies to all raw materials imported to the EU, including cocoa. Cocoa shipments entering Europe are routinely checked for chemical residues and, if a prohibited chemical substance is detected on beans or a particular substance found at a level that exceeds the MRL, the shipment may be rejected. This has major implications for farmers, traders, processors and exporters in producing countries as it may no longer be possible to use certain chemicals or the methods of use may have to be modified to ensure that excessive residues do not occur on the beans.
The European Union imports 85% of its cocoa from West Africa and has recognised the potential impact of this new regulation on the region’s cocoa industry. It is therefore working with producer countries to investigate the use and supply of chemicals in the cocoa industry and to help improve and maintain production methods and cocoa quality throughout the supply chain.
What is this project doing?
In order to help West African producing countries meet the requirements of the new legislation, CABI is working with the cocoa industry in Europe and in the region to ascertain where chemicals are being marketed and used inappropriately. CABI staff, together with in-country cocoa research organisations, have completed comprehensive stakeholder surveys in Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria to gather information on the chemicals that farmers, traders and exporters are using and how these are being supplied. This information has enabled CABI and its cocoa industry partners to evaluate, in relation to the new EU legislation, the risks associated with continued use of the various chemical products and substances identified. it has also enabled activities to be initiated to raise awareness of the possible effects of the legislation and to promote better chemical practice amongst growers and traders while maintaining a supply of quality cocoa.
Results so far
Information gathered during the stakeholder surveys has enabled CABI and the cocoa industry to develop a thorough understanding of the supply and use of chemicals in Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria – from on-farm production through transport and storage to shipment. The suppliers and users of individual chemicals were identified, reasons and method of use determined and the active substances contained in each pesticide product ascertained. This information, coupled with data on chemical residues occurring in cocoa beans, was used to assess the risk of unacceptable residue levels remaining and therefore the chances of a shipment being rejected. It was concluded that some chemicals should no longer be used because the active ingredient is not approved - either in the EU or the origin country - or because the risk of residues remaining on the cocoa beans is considered too high. For others, use of the chemical in the recommended manner should be sufficient to ensure that unacceptable residue levels do not occur.
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Project Development Officer
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Sean T Murphy
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