EUROPEAN MARKET ACCESS REQUIREMENTS for COCOA

To sell your cocoa on the European market, you need to comply with European market access requirements. These requirements can vary from Europe-wide legislation to common buyer preferences.

Legal requirements

The most important European legislation you must comply with is on Food Safety and Hygiene. It aims to ensure the quality of food products throughout the whole supply chain. Implementing food management principles and subjecting food products to official controls are important aspects of this process.

Related to food safety and hygiene are the legal limits for Food Contaminants that you cannot exceed. Common contaminants in cocoa include cadmium, pesticides, mycotoxins and PAHs. Microbiological contamination, extraction solvent residues and foreign matter like insects can also pose problems.

Pre-packaged cocoa products should be labelled according to European Consumer Labelling law. These labels must be visible, legible, indelible and easy to understand, usually in the language(s) of the European target market.

Complying with these legal requirements is key, because unsafe or incorrectly labelled products are banned from entering the European market!

Additional requirements

In addition to legislation, European buyers often have non-legal requirements. Especially regarding food safety, environmental impact and social responsibility.

A common additional requirement is Food Safety Certification. For processors, this usually means a HACCP-based food safety management system. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognises several of these systems for you to choose from. Producers should follow good agricultural practices to ensure food safety, usually by obtaining GLOBALG.A.P certification. This covers all stages of production, from pre-harvest activities like soil management to post-harvest handling, packaging and storage.

To address social and environmental issues, European companies increasingly require Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. These generally include health and safety, business ethics and social responsibility requirements. Your buyer may require you to comply with their company’s CSR-policy, or adhere to common industry codes like BSCI or SA8000.

European companies also increasingly value sustainability, leading them to require Sustainability Certification. There are several sustainability certification schemes, but for cacao UTZ and the Rain Forest Alliance are the most common. There are also sector specific initiatives for sustainable cacao production and trade, like the International Cocoa Organisation’s International Cocoa Agreement 2010. The European Standardisation Committee (CEN) is also developing a European standard for traceable and sustainable cacao, which they expect to finalise in 2017.

Meeting these additional requirements isn’t mandatory, but can increase your chances on the market considerably.

Niche market requirements

If you can produce organic and/or Fair Trade cocoa these European niche markets may provide interesting opportunities. Organic cocoa requires natural production and processing techniques like crop rotation, biological crop protection, green manure and compost. For Fair Trade cocoa you need to establish fair, reliable and predictable contract arrangements along the entire supply chain.

To supply these niche markets, you need to obtain Organic and/or Fair Trade Certification, like IFOAM and FLO.

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about European market access requirements for cocoa? You can read all about them in CBI’s What requirements should cacao meet to be allowed on the European market?, including tips, guidance documents and helpdesk information!

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