Postponed as a result of the ash cloud that was troubling Europe in April, the United Nations Cocoa Conference is finally being hold under the auspices of the UNCTAD at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 21-25 June. After more than 18 months of preparatory meetings by the Working Group for a future International Cocoa Agreement, together with the producing and consuming members of the ICCO, the aim of the conference is to adopt a new International Cocoa Agreement.
The draft text for this agreement, which was prepared by the Working Group and which will be negotiated at the Conference by delegations of governments of cocoa importing and cocoa exporting countries, addresses the following key issues:
- A new structure to further improve the efficiency of the International Cocoa Organization, which administers the provisions and supervises the operation of the agreement.
- Reinforcement of a mandate for development of projects, recognizing their role in strengthening national cocoa economies and allowing them to better respond to evolving demand.
- The need to strive towards fair cocoa prices leading to equitable returns for both producers and consumers.
- Promotion of the quality of cocoa and the need to develop appropriate food-safety procedures in the sector.
- Development and implementation of strategies to enhance the capacity of local communities and small-scale farmers to benefit from cocoa production, thereby contributing to poverty alleviation.
- Dissemination of information on financial tools and services that could assist cocoa producers, including access to credit and the managing of price risk.
- Enhancement of market transparency by collecting, processing, and distributing data from both private and public sources, and increased cooperation between the ICCO and the private sector.
- Codification of ICCO cooperation with non-governmental organizations.
The Conference brings together delegations of governments producers and consumers of cocoa importing and cocoa exporting countries. It also provides a space for registered observer countries and organizations.
At the opening of the Conference Mr. Petko Draganov, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD highlighted the importance of cocoa for the world economy and for its producers. The importance of cocoa to the world economy and, in particular to developing country producers, cannot be overestimated, he said, indicating that worldwide more than three million farmers depend on cocoa for a major part of their income.
At the forefront of the objectives of the future International Cocoa Agreement is the need to address the core problem of the low income levels of cocoa farmers. Mr. Draganov noted in this regard that as with other commodities, it is important for producers to develop their competitiveness in higher value processing activities. By moving up the value chain into manufacturing, marketing and sales, and into niche markets in organic and fair trade products, countries can capture more income from their participation in the chocolate industry.
He also uttered that the new Agreement should reflect the need for sustainable conditions in the cocoa industry. … in a world in which demand for commodities is increasing through new market opportunities and population growth, we must be vigilant that today´s conditions for production — including for example, water and soil resources — are used in a way that ensures the continuation of cocoa production for tomorrow. However, sustainability also refers to prices, which impact poverty, and the investment decisions of poor farmers. Price stability is as important as decent prices, if farmers are to sustain their livelihoods from cocoa production and be able to invest in more efficient production techniques. By addressing issues of sustainability now, we hope that cocoa, and commodity economies in general, will make a long-term and valuable contribution to growth and development in producing and exporting countries.
Other speakers included Mr. Jindrich Fialka (Czech Republic), Chair of the Council, Mr. St-Cyr Djikalou (Côte d’Ivoire), Spokesperson for the Producers, Mr. Ewald Wermuth (Netherlands), Spokesperson for the Consumers, and Dr. Jan Vingerhoets, Executive Director of ICCO
More information, including webcasts, is available online.
For the programme of the conference, click here.