Major cocoa exporting and importing countries have gathered in Geneva today for a United Nations-hosted meeting to finalize the details of a new agreement designed to make trade in the commodity fairer and sustainable.
The new agreement, to be concluded during this week’s meeting, aims to provide a mechanism to reconcile the sometimes conflicting interests of cocoa farmers, exporters, importing countries and the multinational firms that process the cocoa beans.
The meeting, dubbed the UN Cocoa Conference 2010, and held under the auspices of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is expected to put the final touches on an agreement that emphasizes the importance of developing a “sustainable cocoa economy” that will encompass environmental, social, and economic dimensions of the trade.
The current International Cocoa Agreement, which entered into force in 2005, is set to expire on 30 September 2012.
It is the sixth in a series of such agreements, and differs from its predecessors in that it recommends, on the basis of the negotiations conducted to date, the exclusion of market regulatory mechanisms, such as production quotas, buffer stocks, and other price-support measures.
The new agreement will come into effect upon ratification by five exporting countries, whose combined production capacity is at least 80 per cent of the world cocoa crop, and five importing countries with a total consumption of at least 60 per cent of the commodity.
The export value of world cocoa bean production during the current 2009/2010 cocoa year is estimated at some $10 billion.
Cocoa is grown mainly by smallholder farmers in West Africa, Central and South America and Asia, but mostly consumed in industrialized countries.
The low incomes of smallholder cocoa farmers are widely acknowledged to be the single most important challenge for the world cocoa economy. Prices must be sufficiently remunerative for farmers and production more efficient to ensure decent incomes for them.