Belgian heading the International Cocoa Organization

Since the end of September, our fellow countryman Michel Arrion is the new head of the International Cacao Organization (ICCO) located in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Belgium is a world leader when it comes to chocolate, with more than 400 companies and a yearly production of 650.000 tons.

At the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo, a meeting took place with the chocolate sector, the retail sector and civil society to discuss the role of ICCO and Belgium in tackling the complex challenges in the cocoa sector. They also expanded on ways the private sector and civil society can contribute to this.

The main goal of ICCO is to promote the production and trade in cocoa. It also aims at drawing the attention of international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the challenges of the cocoa sector.

The international demand for cocoa has risen dramatically over the past years – especially driven by the soaring consumption in China and the upcoming economies – which brought the existing challenges (child labour, low pay for small producers, deforestation,…) even more to the forefront.

Globally Belgium is the fourth importer of cocoa. As world leader in the field, Belgium is well aware that quality chocolates requires a fair and sustainable production and distribution.

The fight against child labour within the cocoa sector has long been a priority for our country. Belgium has supported various initiatives through the OECD, UNICEF and ILO over the past few years to tackle child labour in the sector. During the economic mission to Ivory Coast in 2017, Minister Reynders opened a seminar with the First Lady of Ivory Coast and the ILO concerning the abolition of child labour in the cocoa industry in cooperation with the private sector.

In the meantime, Minister De Croo works together with the chocolate sector to come up with clear guidelines on sustainable chocolate. This is in line with the earlier engagement by the private sector through the Belgian SDG Charter to enshrine SDGs in their business plans and integrate sustainability in their supply chains.