EP to vote on agreement governing the bittersweet trade in cocoa 

Cocoa is at the heart of a global trade that provides millions of people with an income 

Cocoa is not only essential to creating delicious chocolate, but it is also a commodity millions of people depend upon for their income. The European Parliament will vote this week on the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement which aims to improve market transparency and strengthen co-operation between exporting and importing countries. MEPs will also vote on a separate resolution to condemn the use of child labour for cocoa production.

The agreement

The International Cocoa Agreement, which replaces the existing 2001 agreement, will be in force for 10 years and can be extended twice for additional two-year periods. The new agreement sets objectives for a sustainable cocoa economy, recognises the need for fair cocoa prices and equitable returns, promotes  quality and develops food safety procedures. It also aims to strengthen the role of the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). The organisation collects, processes and distributes market data and works together with industry and NGOs. ICCO members represent 85% of world cocoa production and more than 60% of consumption. Exporters and importers hold identical shares in its highest governing body, with the EU as a single party holding over half of importing members' votes. 

Following the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament must grant consent before the agreement is concluded by the Council. The international trade committee, which is the committee responsible, recommends approving the agreement.  MEPs will discuss the agreement this afternoon and vote on it tomorrow.

Child labour concerns

The use of child labour for cocoa production remains a concern, which is why there is a resolution on it. Portuguese Social-Democrat Vital Moreira, who is responsible for steering the agreement through Parliament, commented: "Child labour is not an isolated issue. It is the result of tradition, poverty, a lack of alternatives for generating income, a lack of opportunities for young people outside of school, rigid community structures and prevailing attitudes, inadequate legal protection of children's rights and a failure to put in place mandatory public education for all children. An adequate framework to address the root causes of child labour will therefore have to consider all of these issues." 

Cocoa - a global affair

Some 90% of world cocoa is cultivated by 5.5 million smallholders with the help of an additional 14 million rural workers. Outdated farming techniques are still widespread in cocoa cultivation. African countries account for about 70% of cocoa production while Latin America and Asia together with Oceania are each responsible for 13% of cocoa crops. The European chocolate industry, which processes cocoa and makes chocolate, is the largest one in the world. The EU imports more than 80% of its cocoa from West Africa.