Deforestation in Cocoa Supply Chains

, 10 minute read

Quick summary: Explore the complexities of deforestation in cocoa supply chains, unveiling the environmental and social challenges within the industry. Delve into the impacts, regulations like EUDR, and innovative solutions driving sustainable cocoa production.

Addressing Deforestation in Cocoa Supply Chain

Curious about Deforestation in Cocoa Supply Chain and EU Regulations? Explore Common Questions and Gain Insights into Sustainable Practices in the Cocoa Industry.

Deforestation In the cocoa supply chains- a stark reality that shadows the sweetness of chocolate. Shockingly, cocoa production has been a key driver behind deforestation, with estimates suggesting that cocoa farming contributes to the loss of vast hectares of tropical forests each year. 

The global cocoa industry, primarily centered in West Africa, faces a stark reality. Approximately 75% of the world’s cocoa originates from this region, predominantly from leading producers such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. 

 Unfortunately, the past six decades have witnessed a significant toll on the environment in these countries, with a staggering 94% and 80% loss of forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, respectively. Disturbingly, a substantial portion of this deforestation, up to one-third, is attributed to the expansion of cocoa production. 

The bitter truth lies in the deforestation haunting cocoa supply chains, an environmental price paid for our sweet cravings. In this exploration, we delve into the complex web connecting chocolate delights to vanishing forests, uncovering the challenges, consequences, and the imperative need for sustainable practices in cocoa production. Join us on a journey to unmask the realities behind your beloved cocoa treats. 

How is Cocoa Production leading to Deforestation? 

Cocoa stands as a global commodity, vital for the multibillion-dollar chocolate industry. It is not merely an ingredient; it shapes economies, provides livelihoods for millions, and delights taste buds worldwide.  

The processing of cocoa beans takes place across the globe, with 40% of cocoa beans ground and processed in Europe and the remaining 60% of the market is shared among Africa, Asia and the Americas. 

Throughout history, deforestation caused by cocoa cultivation in these areas has been influenced by various factors. These include the lack of a clear land and tree tenure system, ineffective legal frameworks, and government policies that encourage increased production. The situation is worsened by a lack of resources, soil degradation, and farmers’ inclination to utilize recently deforested lands for nutrient-rich soils. 

Hence, the issue of deforestation is intensified by diminishing productivity caused by suboptimal farming methods. Consequently, farmers resort to clearing more forested areas to expand their production zones, despite the absence of an overall increase in production. This situation has resulted in internal migration to forested regions, where deforestation occurs for new cocoa cultivation. The economic advantages of planting cocoa in recently cleared forest lands outweigh the benefits of replanting in existing farms in the short term. 

Cocoa farming practices often contribute to deforestation as farmers expand their plantations into forested areas. This expansion involves clearing land through slash-and-burn methods, leading to extensive deforestation. The high demand for cocoa incentivizes this unsustainable agricultural expansion, posing significant environmental threats and emphasizing the imperative for adopting more sustainable and forest-friendly cocoa farming practices. 

Factors Driving Deforestation 

Increased cocoa demand, driven by the global chocolate industry, fuels the expansion of cocoa plantations. This demand intensifies pressures on tropical forests, contributing to illegal logging and land clearance for cocoa farming. As farmers seek to meet market demands, they often resort to unsustainable practices, accelerating deforestation. Addressing these factors necessitates a holistic approach, involving sustainable farming practices, responsible sourcing, and consumer awareness to break the link between cocoa production and deforestation. 

Deforestation in cocoa-producing regions carries severe environmental and social consequences. It leads to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and disrupted water cycles, affecting local ecosystems. Additionally, deforestation often displaces indigenous communities, contributing to social injustice. Sustainable cocoa farming is crucial for mitigating these impacts, preserving biodiversity, and ensuring the well-being of both the environment and the people dependent on cocoa production. 

Environmental Impact 

Deforestation in cocoa-producing regions leads to habitat loss and a sharp decline in biodiversity. Indigenous flora and fauna lose their homes, disrupting ecosystems. This ecological imbalance affects pollinators, soil quality, and water cycles, emphasizing the urgent need for sustainable cocoa farming to preserve the rich biodiversity of tropical regions and maintain ecological harmony. 

Deforestation in cocoa supply chains intensifies climate change by releasing stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Trees act as carbon sinks, and when cleared for cocoa farming, this stored carbon is released, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting imbalance accelerates global warming, emphasizing the critical role of sustainable cocoa practices in mitigating climate impacts. 

Social and Human Rights Issues 

Deforestation in cocoa-producing areas often displaces local communities, robbing them of their homes and livelihoods. Indigenous populations dependent on forests for sustenance face economic hardships, contributing to social injustice. Sustainable cocoa farming practices are essential to mitigate these impacts, ensuring the well-being and stability of local communities. 

Deforestation in the cocoa industry often intertwines with issues like child labour and fair trade. As demand for cocoa intensifies, farmers may exploit labour, including children, in unsustainable practices. Embracing fair trade principles becomes crucial to breaking this cycle, promoting ethical treatment, and sustainable practices, and ensuring a just and transparent cocoa supply chain. 

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Challenges in the Cocoa Value Chain 

The cocoa supply chain is intricate, involving numerous hands before reaching supermarket shelves. Cocoa from various farmers, mainly smallholders, is blended at multiple stages, hindering traceability to individual farms—the source of most supply chain risks. This complexity also contributes to inequities along the value chain.

  • Consumers depend on companies within the supply chain, such as retailers, manufacturers, and traders, to guarantee that the products they purchase are not linked to these adverse impacts. However, what level of awareness do the world’s chocolate companies have about their supply chains? 
  • While companies possess some insight into the origin of beans procured directly through cooperatives and may even interact directly with farmers, the realm of indirect sourcing remains opaque, with the origin unknown. 
  • Undisclosed and indirect sourcing present areas of ambiguity. 

Despite its extensive nature, most corporate sustainability reporting does not account for indirect sourcing. Take, for instance, the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), a multi-stakeholder collaboration involving the Ivorian government and 35 major chocolate companies and cocoa traders responsible for over half of Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa exports. While CFI members submit annual reports on sustainable sourcing, these reports only cover directly sourced volumes. 

  • According to CFI members, 74% of directly sourced cocoa is traceable to the farm. However, when considering indirect sourcing, the overall traceability percentage drops closer to 50%.  
  • This lack of transparency poses a potential regulatory risk, especially with the EU’s proposed due diligence legislation (EUDR) requiring companies to prove that imported products are not linked to recent deforestation. This legislation mandates the identification of the farm of origin for deforestation-risk products like cocoa. 
  • Indirect sourcing, characterized by informal relationships between farmers and local middlemen, complicates the tracking of cocoa beans back to their origin, making it extremely challenging, if not impossible. 
  • Apart from indirect sourcing, smaller trading companies that handle one-third (30.3%) of imports into the EU don’t disclose information about their suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire. Although there’s a need for increased transparency from these smaller firms, achieving traceability might pose significant challenges. 

Discover how our cutting-edge blockchain-powered traceability solutions can seamlessly guide your company through the intricacies of European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) compliance.

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Technology Solutions with Traceability 

First-mile digital traceability” serves as a crucial tool to ascertain the origins of our cocoa and the conditions of its production.  

Enhancing the transparency and traceability of the cocoa value chain is a crucial method for bolstering accountability and sustainability in the chocolate and cocoa sector. 

TraceX Blockchain Solutions 

Tracex blockchain-powered traceability solutions offer a robust framework for companies to address the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) compliance. By leveraging blockchain technology, Tracex provides an immutable and transparent ledger that records every step of a product’s journey from origin to market. This ensures that companies can meet the stringent requirements of the EUDR by: 

  • Geolocation Tracking: Tracex enables the collection of precise geographic coordinates of land where commodities are produced, a crucial aspect of EUDR compliance. This data is securely recorded on the blockchain, providing proof of deforestation-free practices. 
  • Identity Preservation: The blockchain ensures complete identity preservation of commodities, prohibiting the mixing of deforestation-free and unknown-origin products. This level of identity preservation aligns with the EUDR’s mandate for strict traceability. 
  • Data Security and Integrity: Tracex’s blockchain ensures the security and integrity of collected data, mitigating the risk of unauthorized alterations. This is essential for maintaining compliance with the EUDR’s documentation and reporting requirements. 
  • Supply Chain Transparency: The transparency offered by blockchain allows companies to provide irrefutable evidence of their commitment to deforestation-free practices. This transparency not only aids in compliance but also builds trust with consumers, investors, and other stakeholders. 
  • Real-time Monitoring and Reporting: Tracex provides real-time monitoring capabilities, offering companies accurate and up-to-date information crucial for decision-making and reporting. This real-time visibility supports companies in promptly addressing any issues related to deforestation. 
  • Immutable Documentation: The blockchain’s immutable nature ensures that once data is recorded, it cannot be altered or tampered with. This feature is pivotal for maintaining the integrity of documentation, a key requirement for EUDR compliance. 
  • Comprehensive Due Diligence: Tracex facilitates comprehensive due diligence reporting, condensing all the necessary information into a single document. This streamlines the process of demonstrating compliance with the EUDR’s regulations.

Industry Awareness and Initiatives 

Chocolate manufacturers and cocoa producers are increasingly committed to addressing deforestation. Many have pledged to source sustainably certified cocoa, supporting agroforestry practices that integrate cocoa cultivation with forest conservation. Initiatives include farmer training programs, reforestation projects, and partnerships with NGOs. Certifications like Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade indicate efforts toward ethical and environmentally friendly cocoa production, signalling a positive shift toward a more sustainable chocolate industry. 

Certification Programs and Sustainability 

Certification programs like Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade play a pivotal role in promoting sustainable cocoa production. They establish standards for environmental conservation, fair labour practices, and community well-being. Cocoa farmers adhering to these certifications are incentivized with better prices, fostering sustainable practices. Consumer awareness of these labels encourages ethical choices, creating a market demand for responsibly sourced cocoa and driving positive change in the chocolate industry. 

The Role of Consumers 

Consumer choices and awareness wield significant influence in driving change in the cocoa industry. Informed consumers, by preferring products with certifications like Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance, create demand for sustainably sourced cocoa. This consumer-driven demand encourages chocolate manufacturers to adopt ethical and environmentally friendly practices. As awareness grows, the industry responds, leading to a positive cycle where responsible consumer choices catalyse broader changes toward a more sustainable cocoa supply chain. 

The Road to Sustainable Cocoa 

A lack of transparency about deforestation in the cocoa supply chain is creating reputational and regulatory risks for commodity traders and chocolate manufacturers. 

The future of sustainable cocoa production relies on unwavering commitment to complete supply chain traceability and transparency. To ensure deforestation-free, EUDR-compliant cocoa, time is of the essence. Farm-level traceability, linking geo-located farmland to transaction history, is crucial for audit-proofing your cocoa supply chain. Traditional certifications and spot audits fall short; real-time visibility is essential for maintaining an ethical cocoa supply chain for your brand. 

Numerous major cocoa companies globally remain exposed to the risk of procuring cocoa associated with deforestation. As the European Union Deforestation Regulation enforcement looms, chocolate companies must promptly and decisively act to mitigate deforestation in their supply chains, as failure to do so could result in sanctions for non-compliance.  

The expectation is clear: there is no longer tolerance for anything less than 100% deforestation-free cocoa and comprehensive deforestation mapping. 


In conclusion, addressing deforestation in cocoa supply chains requires a multifaceted approach. Sustainable certifications, agroforestry, and reforestation efforts are pivotal. Consumer choices and advocacy amplify these efforts, pressuring the industry to prioritize ethical and environmentally friendly practices. The sweet future of chocolate lies in a commitment to breaking the link between cocoa and deforestation, ensuring a delicious treat without compromising the health of our planet and the well-being of those involved in its production. 

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