Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – A new European Union (EU) regulation, known as the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), has put the spotlight on Sierra Leone’s cocoa sector, emphasizing the need for enhanced traceability and sustainability in the supply chain. Effective since June 29, 2023, the regulation stipulates that certain imported goods, including cocoa, can only be purchased if they are not produced on deforested or degraded grounds.
Discussions surrounding the implications of the EUDR took centre stage during a session of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Technical RoundTable on making the cocoa sector investible and sustainable. Participants highlighted the significance of improving traceability, especially considering the lack of data and transparency, identified as a major constraint for the sector in light of the new regulation.
The EU’s impact assessment revealed that 58% of globally produced cocoa is imported by the EU, contributing to 7.5% of EU-driven deforestation. The majority of imported cocoa originates from West and Central Africa (72%), with additional contributions from Latin America and the Caribbean (7%) and South East Asia (1%).
In a virtual presentation, Regis Meritan, Senior Expert and Head of Sector Agricultural Growth at the European Commission, emphasized the necessity for traceability in the cocoa sector. Exporters, he stated, must provide GPS polygons for plots (4 hectares) to demonstrate that the cocoa does not come from a degraded area after December 2020. Compliance with the EUDR is mandatory for operators from December 30, 2024, and mid-2025 for micro and small enterprises. A benchmarking system will categorize countries and regions based on deforestation risk.
Meritan outlined the three steps of Due Diligence that companies must follow: collect evidence of traceability, deforestation-free production, and legality; assess risks of non-compliance; and take action to mitigate identified risks.
Holger Rommen, Head of Sector Rural Development and Infrastructure at the EU Delegation in Sierra Leone, stressed the crucial role of the private sector in ensuring traceability. He highlighted the regulation’s aim to prevent the destruction of primary lands and encourage intensified agro-forestry processes before 2020 to achieve sustainable yields.
Yatta Sama, Chairwoman of Moawam Cooperative, emphasized the need for clear guidance from the EU and government agencies. She noted concerns about potential disruptions to the supply chain, impacting already impoverished farmers who engage in land clearing for cultivation. Sama called for early sensitization to ensure that the new regulation does not adversely affect local producers. ZIJ/22/1/2024