Recent data released by Trase, a supply chain mapping solutions provider, concluded that current traceability measures in Cocoa supply chains are not effective in stopping deforestation. The data shows that between 2000 and 2019, Cocoa farming alone consumed 2.4 million ha of forest in Côte d’Ivoire – an area comparable to the size of Rwanda. This figure represents 45% of the country’s total recorded deforestation.

Finding that current traceability solutions are inadequate is not going to surprise many, but if the calculations are correct, the total figure of deforestation attributable to Cocoa farming is larger than many might expect and clearly unsustainable.

As recently as 2019, 25% of Cocoa cultivation areas were found to be in protected forests, highlighting the need for stronger enforcement of conservation measures in the country.

Cocoa supply chains are highly exposed to deforestation, including illegal deforestation.

Cécile Renier, UCLouvain Lead Researcher of Trase Study

This could prove to be a major hurdle for Côte d’Ivoire’s Cocoa sector when it comes to selling its product on European markets. With the introduction of the new legislation, a higher level of traceability will be required for products exported to Europe to ensure that there are no links to deforestation. About two-thirds of the Cocoa exported from Côte d’Ivoire goes to the EU and the UK.

According to the study, the largest Cocoa suppliers had the most deforestation in their supply chains, even though many of them belong to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), which claims to have mapped over 70% of its direct shipments.

Direct supplies are only a fraction of the story.

Traders buy substantial volumes – sometimes most of their cocoa – from intermediaries, without knowing who those intermediaries source from. In fact, Cocoa & Forests Initiative traders mapped only 22% of national cocoa exports in 2019, and from their latest report, the situation has not evolved much since.

Cécile Renier, UCLouvain Lead Researcher of Trase Study

The solution, according to Trase, is for companies, governments and communities to work together to drive change at the landscape level, with companies investing beyond their own supply chains.

The sector could finance staffing and equipment for forest monitoring and protection efforts across cocoa-growing regions.


Dr Toby Gardner, Trase Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute, noted that the impact of cocoa on West African forestry is not as well researched as for some other commodities.

The threat posed by agriculture to African forests has been poorly studied compared to soy and beef in Latin America and palm oil in Indonesia.

The world needs to hear the less-than-sweet news – chocolate is eating West African forests, driving up emissions.

Dr Toby Gardner, Trase Director, Stockholm Environment Institute
Photo by Schlawensko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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