• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Nigeria races to comply with EU’s regulation for cocoa export ahead December deadline

Nigeria races to comply with EU’s regulation for cocoa export ahead December deadline

…govt urged to tap cocoa boom

…as rising cocoa prices excite Nigerian farmers

The Nigerian governments is racing to comply with the new regulations set by the European Union in order to sustain export of her cocoa products to the European market as the December, 2024 deadline nears.

The European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) is a regulation which prohibits products from entering the EU market unless they are deforestation-free and legally produced. The Regulation applies to wood, palm oil, soy, coffee, cocoa, rubber and cattle, as well as most of the derivatives. Under cocoa, it applies to beans, products and chocolate.

The regulation entered into force on June 29, 2023, with an 18 month preparation period that will expire on December 30, 2024 when it fully enters into application.

The National Cocoa Management Committee convened critical stakeholders in cocoa sub-sector in Abuja to strategize how to boost Nigeria’s cocoa production, and most importantly address the gaps to ensure the country complies with EU standards.

The Committee serves as the regulatory body for all matters that concerns the cocoa sector. It was inaugurated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and comprises of members that cut across all the sectors in the cocoa value chain.

Patrick Adebola, Executive Director of the Committee, informed that govenrnent and all stakeholders are putting heads together on the EUDR, noting that if Nigeria does not comply with the standards, the country may no longer be able to export cocoa beans and products to Europe, which is the biggest market for the country.

He expressed concerns that Nigeria exports about 70% of cocoa beans and failure to meet standards set will significantly impact the value chain.

“The key issue that we are discussing in this meeting is the issue of the EUDR regulation on our cocoa that will come into force in December this year. If we are found not to be compliant, it means our cocoa beans may not be accepted to be sold in European markets. That is the reason why we are putting our heads together to see how we can start to discuss compliance to EUDR”, Adebola told journalists.

He also informed that the World Cocoa Foundation is also providing support to enable Nigeria comply with the standards.

The executive director, however decried that the EUDR is rather unfair and stringent, stressing that the EU did not consult widely with exporting countries before drafting such regulation.

In addition to prohibiting cocoa harvested from deforested areas, Adebola said the regulation also prohibits cocoa planted and harvested through child labour, big said their definition of child labour may not apply to Nigerian context.

“One of the contentious issue in this regulation is that they don’t want our they don’t want cocoa beans that are being harvested from deforested area because deforestation leads to environmental degradation, even though we are arguing with them that when you cut down a tree and plant cocoa tree, that is not a deforestation. We were not given an opportunity to discuss before the EU regulation.

“We feel these regulation are very stringent and Nigeria will need a lot of help in order for us to to comply with this stringent regulation. We see it as being unfair, and we felt that countries that are involved were not really fully engaged before this EUDR was rolled out”, he said.

“Our own situation is peculiar, and what they see as child labour might not necessarily be a child labor in our own Nigerian context. So all those issues needs to still be discussed”, he added.

The executive director also wants the EU government to extend the time to ensure proper preparation by exporting countries. According to him, only about 50% of the exporting countries will be able to comply with this stringent regulation before the deadline of December 2024.

“We are voicing out to make sure that the EU either give us a little bit more time to prepare for the compliance or to look at regulation all over to see whether there is a way to relax that regulation and make it less stringent “he further said.

Mufutau Abolarinwa, the National President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said the meeting also sought to explore ways to increase cocoa production, in addition to meeting set standards for export.

He decried that Nigeira still produces below 300,000 metric tons even though the country has up to 16 cocoa producing states, while prices of cocoa continue to rise globally.

The president urged government to provide more incentives, particularly to subsidize expensive herbicides and chemicals. He also wants governments to bring back the waiver on hydro-carbon jute bags which are necessary for export.

“That waiver has to be returned without any further delay by the federal government or else Nigerian cocoa is in danger for export in this coming cocoa season,” he said.

Speaking on the situation of cocoa for farmers, Adeola Adegoke, National President, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, said the cocoa prices have continued to excite farmers who are “now smiling to the bank”, against previous years of poverty.

He disclosed that a ton of cocoa costs close to N11million per ton, which shows the potential for Nigeria to get the most desired foreign exchange, which can also be channel into local production.

He stressed that Nigeria cannot afford to look away from cocoa and should invest more.