Ivory Coast's cocoa regulator on Thursday started distributing electronic cards to cocoa farmers to help track beans from plantations to their export ports and ensure the growers are paid a guaranteed price for their produce.
The countrywide exercise is part of a response to plans by the European Union to ban imports of commodities and products linked to deforestation and rights abuses by 2024.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer has been criticised over the years for using thousands of child labourers in farms, and destroying large areas of forests and national parks to expand production.
Authorities have previously said they are tackling the issue of child labour and acknowledged that farming is encroaching on forests.
In 2019, the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) commissioned a study to establish the number of cocoa farmers and where they operate. It registered 995,000 farmers and found that 15% of plantations were in protected forest areas.
The new card system, which will start operating at the start of the next cocoa season on Oct.1, will enable the CCC to reject beans grown illegally and trace them from plantations to the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro.
"The European Union voted a new law that will be implemented soon, and this pushes us to develop a traceability and certification system," CCC head Yves Brahima Kone told hundreds of cocoa farmers collecting their cards in the northern city of Agboville.
The cards are also integrated with an electronic payment and wallet system that will allow farmers to get the guaranteed farmgate price of 900 CFA francs ($1.52) per kg of beans, which many buyers do not respect.
"It is the first time I have a bank card that I can use to withdraw cash. I have never had a bank account and I am happy because now I can sell my cocoa for the guaranteed price," said Jean Dominique Boua, who farms outside Agboville.
The CCC has already given out 100,000 cards since a pilot project in April last year. It aims to distribute around 50,000 cards per month until the end of the current season.
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