Brussels hosts pivotal World Cocoa Conference

From 21 to 24 April, Brussels will be the stage for the World Cocoa Conference (WCC). "Paying more for sustainable cocoa" is the challenging theme of the first edition in six years of what is usually a biennial event and the most important in the cocoa sector.

Belgium is undoubtedly a significant player in the world cocoa trade. It imports almost 10 per cent of world production and re-exports 61 per cent. This makes Belgium the world's fifth-largest exporter of cocoa and chocolate products.

Sustainable cocoa

A press release states that as the host country, Belgium will do its utmost to ensure that the WCC 2024 becomes a milestone in the international community's long-standing efforts to achieve sustainable cocoa with fair prices throughout the value chain.

Small, poor farmers in West Africa mainly produce cocoa. Therefore, the issue of cocoa prices and cocoa farmers' incomes will be at the centre of the debates at the WCC 2024 under the title: "Paying more for sustainable cocoa".

The programme will also address critical issues such as traceability of sustainable cocoa, environmental issues, supply management and demand stimulation, new cocoa-based products and the role of women in the cocoa economy.

Cocoa prices

Climate change is already having an increasing impact on the sector. Belgium also feels the effects, with chocolate becoming more expensive due to poor cocoa harvests in West Africa. This is the result of extreme rainfall and flooding.

West African countries such as Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana produce more than half of the world's chocolate. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that under a 'business as usual' scenario, these countries will experience a temperature rise of 2.1°C by 2050, significantly reducing suitable growing areas.

The 2024 WCC, therefore, comes at a crucial time. The conference will attract between 1,000 and 1,200 participants from the International Cocoa Organisation's (ICCO) 52 member states, including 29 cocoa-importing and 23 cocoa-exporting countries.

Participants will come from all walks of life: governments, companies, cocoa farmer representatives, NGOs, specialised journalists and researchers.


Illustration picture shows cacao beans at the artisanal production of chocolate in the chocolate manufactury of Barry Callebaut. © BELGA PHOTO PETER DECONINCK

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