Illegal mining is posing a real threat to a sector that has over the years proven to be the hallmark of Ghana’s economy; the cocoa sector. Cocoa beans from Ghana risk being banned on the European Union and Switzerland markets as the European Commission put forth legislation on cocoa sustainability.

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire account for over 60 percent of global cocoa beans production.

But illegal and speculative mining activities and depletion of forest covers to make room for cocoa production have raised concerns on the international market, and the European Union is considering a complete ban on cocoa beans from non-adherent countries in a bid to cut back on deforestation which is largely fueling the climate change emergency.

Already, The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has expressed worry and concern about the level of deforestation by illegal miners, and the devastation it’s beginning to have on production figures, with a long-term bleak future for the cocoa sector, if the current trajectory is not checked and overturned.

‘’The dangers of deforestation in cocoa growing communities is already staring us in the face,’’ Public Affairs Manager of COCOBOD, Fiifi Boafo said.

Only that this time, it is lurking in, and ready to strike a sector that has over the years proven to be the hallmark of the country’s economy at both national and local levels.

The chemical residue that leaches into cocoa and other plants, aggressive steps to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and global biodiversity loss are among the key concerns of the European Union Commission when it first decided to put to vote, the Cocoa Sustainability Legislation.

Japan has had cause to review its standardization with regard to the cocoa beans it imports from Ghana. There are concerns the Asian country has already reduced the importation of Ghana’s cocoa beans after discovering chemical residue in some shipments.

The Asian country imports on average, a little below 40,000 tons annually, representing seventy percent (70%) of its cocoa imports to feed its chocolate industry.

After years of expressing concerns about producing cocoa products in what the EU considers unsustainable conditions, the Commission in November 2021 put forth a regulation on deforestation-free supply chains and cocoa was one of five global commodities selected for stricter regulation.

If an observatory group is able to confirm widespread deforestation in cocoa-producing countries, paramount among the options being considered by the EU is a complete ban of cocoa products from those countries from entering their market.

China has in recent years embarked on an aggressive cocoa production drive.

It, therefore, brings into sharp focus, allegations from certain quarters that the Chinese government may have deployed spies to collude with some Ghanaians to destroy Ghana’s forest in order to trigger the EU ban on the country’s cocoa beans.

If the Chinese, as being speculated, succeed at this economic warfare and espionage, the European Union will be left with no other option than to import cocoa beans from countries that apply the cocoa sustainability legislation.

Responding to the pending legislation, a determination of which is expected in 2023, Public Affairs Manager at COCOBOD, Fiifi Boafo described the ‘’unilateral decision by the EU’’ as ‘’unfortunate’’. In his view, the EU Commission could have used a different approach to achieve the same target of allowing only ‘’sustainable cocoa’’ on their market.

That notwithstanding Mr. Boafo says COCOBOD has had extensive meetings and reviewed relevant documents in a bid to find a middle ground because it has very little influence on individual cocoa farms in the nooks and crannies of cocoa growing communities.

Meanwhile a mining Consultant with a background in forest restoration, Alhaji Haruna Abdulai cautioned the government not to treat lightly the legislation put forth by the European Union Commission. ‘’The Ghana cocoa sector is driven by individual cocoa farmers unlike commercial plantations in Cote D’Ivoire so as a consequence we cannot afford not to take this matter seriously.

Anytime there’s going to be cocoa syndication there’s reprieve at every level of business because you know it’ll bring some stability to the economy, unlike the mining sector where the bulk of the income is repatriated. Given that cocoa is the hallmark of our economy should take this issue seriously and we should make sure that at the end of the day we are not affected by the EU’’. Alhaji Haruna said.

A determination on the Cocoa Sustainability Legislation is expected to be made in 2023.

Switzerland is also considering similar legislation which is expected to take effect in 2025. The European country imported cocoa beans worth eighty-six million dollars ($86m) in 2021, and the European Union remains Ghana’s biggest cocoa market.

Of the $130 billion global chocolate industry, cocoa exported from Africa rakes in only a small slice.

If the proposed legislation gets passed, Ghana’s cocoa industry in particular could suffer, considering how fast Ghana’s forest cover has been destroyed by activities of illegal miners who operate on the blind side of the law.