CocoaSafe: SPS capacity building and knowledge sharing on cocoa in South East Asia
The overall development goal of this project was to produce and trade cocoa that meets food safety and phytosanitary standards. To do this, the project had the objectives of: (i) improving food safety and SPS practices along the cocoa supply chain in Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG; and (ii) increasing awareness of SPS issues among supply chain stakeholders through innovative knowledge dissemination.
The overall goal of this project was to ensure the continued production and trade of cocoa that meets food safety and international SPS standards. Promotion of best practice at all stages of the cocoa value chain from production to export will result in production of good quality cocoa that complies with international regulations and legislation on pesticide residues and other harmful substances. As with other foodstuffs, consumers of cocoa and cocoa products all over the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the use of potentially harmful chemicals in cocoa production and processing. Many countries have enacted legislative and regulatory measures and established sanitary and phytosanitary standards; compliance of imported cocoa and cocoa products to these standards is required for continued access to their high value markets.
A result story on the project is available here.
Most of the cocoa in the Southeast Asia region is produced by smallholder farmers (most of which usually belong to farmer groups) but productivity is typically low, with quality of cocoa beans average or good. Yields are threatened by constraints including pests and diseases such as cocoa pod borer, vascular streak dieback and Phytophthora pod rot. In smallholder systems, best practice is rarely applied in cocoa production; produce can be contaminated during the production stage (e.g. by pesticides), during drying and storage (postharvest storage, collection by local traders, exporters and processors), and during the processing steps.
Measures are needed to minimise the levels of harmful substances in cocoa products, particularly as cocoa-producing countries face potential trade barriers as a result of increasing numbers of legislative and regulatory measures on food safety. High value markets such as the EU, Japan and the US enforce legislation on imported foodstuffs, including raw and processed materials such as cocoa, so developing capacity in conforming to SPS regulations (such as maximum contaminant levels) is now a priority in many developing countries. Across Southeast Asia, cocoa exports are an important source of income for the livelihoods of thousands of smallholder farmers. Continued compliance with these standards ensures producing countries can retain market access, secure producer livelihoods and strengthen consumer confidence in cocoa products from the region.
Enhanced capacity for dissemination
Continually review and update training materials, best practices and information for dissemination in line with new SPS legislation to ensure continued compliance with relevant standards. As well as updating the CocoaSafe website created by CABI, explore alternative methods of information dissemination for different groups of stakeholders who are not reached through a website, such as social media or messaging platforms for farmers and post-harvest processors.
Extending the scope to reach more farmers
The project should extend its scope to implement farmer field schools (FFS) in Indonesia and other regions of Malaysia as this would enhance impact by ensuring the farmers really implement the activities taught to them in TOF training. It is recommended that the examples of FFS should be repeated in Indonesia and the remaining cocoa growing areas of Malaysia.
Modifying the message to reach all stakeholders
Consider developing an alternative format of the training for input suppliers. They are an important stakeholder in the cocoa supply chain and it was difficult to secure participation from this group during the project. This was due to the length of time they were required to attend the workshops. It may be possible to shorten the course to make it more attractive or integrate the training with other courses they are required to attend.
Extending the reach
For country partners to continue with the collaboration built up during the project and share information on standards and best practices. Extend the country reach of the project through the development of a forum on cocoa SPS issues through a regional organisation like the ASEAN Cocoa Club.
Ensure compliance to international standards
Work towards implementing a national monitoring system in each country to routinely analyse contaminant levels (pesticides residues, heavy metals, PAH, etc.) in cocoa beans at regular intervals using certified laboratories to ensure compliance to international standards and provide a reference for exporters.
Monitoring to assess effectiveness and adoption of best practice
Annual chemical analysis (pesticides, heavy metals, PAH, etc.) of beans produced by the participating farmers to monitor the effectiveness and adoption of SPS best practices provided through the TOF training.
Engaging with the right partners
Regional multi-stakeholder initiatives such as this one would undoubtedly benefit from a stakeholder analysis during the proposal development stage to ensure all appropriate partners at regional and country level are involved in the project. It is also imperative at the conception stage to ensure country buy in and adequate contribution during proposal preparation so that incorrect assumptions are not made about partner’s needs, institutional capacity and reach in the countries concerned.
Ensuring improved sustainability
SPS projects commonly include a capacity building component and to improve sustainability of knowledge transfer and related training materials beyond the life of the project, adequate discussion and assurances need to be sought from partners at the planning stage of the project. A commitment to embedding training curricular into country plans would go some way to achieving this. Understanding that information provided to cocoa stakeholders needs to be constantly reviewed beyond the life of the project is essential, as SPS legislation is constantly updated.
Increasing regional impact
When developing projects with member country based organisations, it should be taken into consideration that county participation may be restricted to the organisations' membership and other countries that would benefit from the initiative in the region might be excluded. A mechanism needs to be discussed in these circumstances whereby non-member countries can benefit from participation. A broader engagement would also have the benefit of increasing the impact and reach of a regional project.