Cocoa grown illegally in a Nigerian rainforest heads to companies that supply major chocolate makers

Cocoa grown illegally in a Nigerian rainforest heads to companies that supply major chocolate makers

entertainment, environment, health, technology By Dec 21, 2023 No Comments

In a nutshell: Figma is a recently incorporated company providing a web-based interface design platform focusing on real-time collaboration.

Adobe was pursuing an acquisition of its most intriguing competitors in years, but the attempt ultimately failed due to antitrust scrutiny in the Europe.

Adobe has lost interest in acquiring Figma.

The company was willing to pay $20 billion to buy the product design startup, but regulatory watchdogs from the EU and UK opposed the deal.

Antitrust laws are designed to preserve market competition, but Adobe said that the proposed remediations were unacceptable and “wholly disproportionate.”

Adobe and Figma negotiated the deal during the COVID-19 pandemic, significantly increasing worldwide technology and software investment.

The potential deal was eventually announced in September 2022, revealing that Adobe was willing to pay 50 times Figma’s annual recurring revenue and double the company’s latest private funding round in 2021.

Since the announcement, the two companies have fought battles on multiple fronts, with antitrust authorities trying to halt the sale.

The European Commission believed the merger could “significantly reduce” competition in global markets.

The EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the Figma acquisition would have prevented “all future competition” between the two companies, leading to less choice, reduced quality, and higher costs for consumers.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) was equally concerned with Adobe’s proposal.

The agency proposed alternative “remedies” in November, forcing Adobe to abandon the deal or eliminate overlapping business products such as Illustrator or Photoshop.

Alternatively, the CMA could have forced Figma to sell off its core product, Figma Design, under the proposal.

Figma CEO Dylan Field told the Financial Times that the suggestion of “buying a company so that you can divest the company” was “quite amusing.”

Reading the CMA proposal was like reading a punchline to a joke, Field said.

Figma’s boss was disappointed with the outcome.

The situation ultimately forced Adobe to abandon the acquisition as there was “no clear path” to satisfy UK or EU regulators’ conditions for approval.

Provisional findings from the CMA contained “serious errors of law and fact,” Adobe and Figma said.

Regulators were influenced by an “irrational approach” to the gathering and appraisal of evidence.

Officials required divestment of a multibillion-dollar business (Photoshop, Illustrator) to address an “uncertain and speculative” theory of harm to competition, a wholly disproportionate reaction to the now-failed deal.

Priced from $349 – $600, these new video smartglasses are a whole new category of Assisted Reality, which traditionally means is putting a monitor in or around your field of view, like the original Google Glass.

The new display glasses put a big screen right in front of you.

It’s the only thing you see, and the screen is big, like 45% of your field of view.

They’re all great for media consumption, playing games, or screen expansion for mobile productivity.

Instead of looking down at a screen in your hands, you can now sit up and look ahead.

If you’ve got a geek on your list, they’re really going to like these.

New TCL RayNeo Air 2 video smart glasses for a big scrteen experience on-the-go. .


A smart phone viewing accessory that delivers a 201″ hi-def screen on the go.

We love these glasses, but compatibility is an issue.

If you have an iPhone 14 or any with a lightning port, you’re going to need the $99 to go with it.

The $499 XReal Air2. .


The biggest, brightest screen this new category of mobile phone accessories delivers.

I recommend buying it with the $119 , a needed iPhone adaptor which allows you to place the screens of varying sizes around the room.

Rokid Max AR Smartglasses $399.

One of the best is also the most expensive, but we love the $199 , a great Android device for streaming, and viewing downloaded videos without wi-fi.

The light weight Station controller makes media consumption on the Rokid Max feel more like the experience of watching TV on your living room sofa.


I first me Virture at CES last year, fresh off their win as one of Time’s best inventions of 2022.

It was plug and play with my iPhone 15 and the old Samsung Galaxy 10 worked well, too.

The screen dimming feature, the focal adjustments, and the outstanding Harmon audio are best-in-class.

The Spacewalker app turns the Virture into more of a 3DOF experience, and makes the phone your controller.

Check device compatablity, as some iPhone and iPads require an adaptor.

The Solos AirGo3’s detachible wing allows for interchangeable styling. .


There’s no display or camera on these smart smartglasses, which use AI as their operating system.

Ray-Ban Stories.


Our friend, Moor Insights analyst Anshel Sag, took great care with this lengthy review of Meta’s new iteration of Ray-Ban Stories: “The latest collaboration between Meta and Luxottica marks a significant improvement over their predecessor, Ray-Ban Stories.

These glasses, powered by Qualcomm’s AR1 Gen 1 platform, offer enhanced features like superior camera capabilities (12MP photos, 1920 x 1440 video), increased storage (32GB), and advanced wireless connectivity.

Notable upgrades include IPX4 water resistance, a sleek design, and a battery life of 36 hours with the charging case.

The inclusion of Meta AI facilitates voice commands and messaging, enhancing day-to-day usability.

Despite some areas needing improvement, such as video frame rate and continuous use battery life, the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses represent a major step forward in wearable technology, combining style, functionality, and a strong value at $299, signaling Meta’s leadership in the evolving smart glasses market.”

In brief: Pour one out for the GTX 16 Series.

According to new reports, Nvidia has decided to officially discontinue its entire line of GTX 16xx graphics cards that were first announced in 2019 and remain popular among Steam users.

It’s been over a year since Nvidia launched the last of its GTX 16xx graphics cards, the GTX 1630, a product we awarded a score of 20 and called an insult to gamers , which could explain its very short life.

According to the Chinese Board Channel Forums , Nvidia is expected to stop production of all GTX 16-series cards starting in the first quarter of next year – in a few weeks, essentially – with the final orders being completed this month.

Nvidia has already officially, or in some cases reportedly, discontinued most of the GTX 16xx cards, meaning the upcoming series discontinuation will only impact the GTX 1650 and GTX 1630; the latter is a cut-down version of the former.

The GTX 16 series is based on the same Turing architecture that launched a year earlier in the RTX 20 Series, which was more expensive and came with the likes of hardware-accelerated ray tracing and DLSS as standard.

While it might not have been as technologically advanced, the budget GTX 16 series has proved to be very popular with gamers: it was only in September when the RTX 3060 knocked the GTX 1650 off its long-held top spot on the Steam Hardware and Survey GPU chart.

The older card remains in second place and even saw its user share increase 1.13% last month.

Expect to continue to see the GTX 16-series cards available to buy until AIB and retailer inventories sell out – there are still plenty available from Amazon and Newegg.

Don’t be surprised to see their prices fall significantly over the coming months, too, and more GTX 16xx cards appearing on eBay as owners trade them in for newer models.

As we noted in our Best GPUs feature , there really aren’t many options left for anyone looking to buy a good sub-$200 GPU these days.

Our recommendation is the AMD Radeon RX 6600 or Radeon 6650 XT.

The former’s cheapest non-refurbished models on Newegg are $199, and they’re either discounted or are from lesser-known brands.

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The agreement was struck in September between the parties but was filed late Monday in a federal court in San Francisco, our colleague .

The settlement and allocates a $630 million payout for U.S. consumers who used a payment system in Google’s Play store.

The states allege the system magnified prices for in-app purchases.

Google’s store collects on in-app purchases.

“The Complaint also alleges state-law antitrust and consumer protection claims.

Specifically, the States allege that Google has unreasonably restrained trade and monopolized Android app distribution and payment-processing services through anticompetitive conduct,” the settlement agreement states.

Those who are eligible will .

Additional payments may be issued depending on how those eligible spent on Google Play from Aug. 16, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2023.

Google will also need to in penalties and other costs.

The settlement needs to be approved by a judge.

Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy Wilson White in a blog post said the settlement “builds on Android’s choice and flexibility, maintains strong security protections, and retains Google’s ability to compete with other OS makers.”

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An estimated 260 million packages disappeared in the U.S. last year, according to Safewise, many taken right from the front door area while a camera recorded the theft.

As the holiday season kicks into high gear, package thefts are a top concern, and one shipping company is using artificial intelligence to combat porch pirates.

Nearly one in four adults had a package stolen in the last 12 months, a survey by Finder said.

Theft can be an even more serious problem if those packages contain necessities, like medication, or expensive items.

“This time of year, we ship a lot of gifts, so every package is very special to the person receiving it,” said Tarek Saab, president of Texas Precious Metals, whose company ships items like silver bars and gold coins.

This year, Saab is using a new UPS data program called DeliveryDefense, which he says helps them identify addresses that are likely targets for theft.

UPS gave CBS News a look at how the program works.

The A.I.-powered program takes a recipient’s address and produces a score — a higher score indicates a higher likelihood of a successful delivery.

The scores are created using years of data from previous deliveries and other factors.

For addresses with a low score, the merchant can reroute the item, with the customer’s approval, to a UPS Store or other pickup locations.

“About 2% of addresses will be considered low confidence, and we’re seeing that represents about 30% of losses our customers are having,” Mark Robinson, president of UPS Capital, told CBS News.

At Texas Precious Metals, Saab believes the technology can reduce those numbers.

“We recognize it’s computers versus criminals, and we have to use every tech capability that we have to try to circumvent any challenges we might run into,” he said.

Janet Shamlian Janet Shamlian is a CBS News correspondent based in Houston, Texas.

Shamlian’s reporting is featured on all CBS News broadcasts and platforms including “CBS Mornings,” the “CBS Evening News” and the CBS News Streaming Network, CBS News‘ premier 24/7 anchored streaming news service.

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Once upon a time, there was a market for sentiment analysis across multiple vertical industries.

Companies wanted to know what clients thought about ther products, services and even their “attitude.”

Did their clients like them, loathe them, empathize with their struggles?

Social media sentiment analysis was a way to expand insight into what clients do and think beyond traditional customer interviews and surveys.

Data was collected from newspaper clips, blogs, posts, headlines, articles and speeches – an expanded view of the customer.

But not a complete view.

Fast forward a decade and a truly holistic approach to investing is the raison d’etre of .

Many of us who have championed the role that so-called “soft” variables play in decision-making have been waiting for a comprehensive approach to problem-solving – in this case investing – for decades.

Highmoon describes its approach this way (the italics are mine): Highmoon blends all this with “traditional” market metrics to generate a complete picture of market conditions that generates informed investment decisions.

It’s amazing how many market analysts cite “emotion,” “psychology,” “sentiment” and other soft variables as the drivers of company and market performance, but fail to integrate them into their assessments or predictions.

Decades ago there were clear technological barriers to measuring the importance of these variables, but today we have generative AI (GenAI) and other tools that enable us to integrate hard and soft variables for improved investment decision-making, risk reduction, and even market projections.

: Lumine Lin, Founder & CEO, Highmoon Capital As the Highmoon founder and CEO – Lumine Lin – explains: But Lin’s most important statement?

The marriage between soft market forces and GenAI is a smart one.

While it remains to be seen how emotionally smart GenAI can be – how fast, if at all, it reaches general AI (GAI) – there’s no question that Highmoon’s approach is the right one.

It’s also one that will reveal some unexpected investment results as GenAI’s capabilities grow.

Said a little differently, the timing of all is this excellent as the capabilities of GenAI will only grow — and grow quickly.

The key to all this is the research agenda that emerges from a holistic approach to investing.

The premise of Highmoon’s approach is that there’s a large – and growing – family of variables that drive financial performance.

When that’s the assumption, research yields never before seen nuances.

Well-bounded problems with pre-packaged solutions are redefined into broader, fuzzier problems that require a set of new methods, tools and techniques that have not been in the traditional arsenal of financial analysts.

Highmoon is pioneering the application of GenAI to enable its holistic approach to market analysis and the deployment of capital.

At least two aspects of this are unique: the broad definition of market drivers and the application of GenAI.

The integration of cognitive biases, emotional influences, stock market sentiment, traders’ emotional intelligence and psychological factors with traditional financial metrics is what many of us have been hoping would transform the investment thesis.

The journey from social media analytics to GenAI-enabled holistic investing has been a long one — but it’s begun at Highmoon.

Stay tuned.

Marma charging rack for micromobility Standab, the Swedish micromobility infrastructure start-up, plans to roll out parking bays for bikes and e-scooters that can charge the batteries in the vehicles.

Marma is a parking rack for the likes of e-scooters that is equipped with charging technology to charge the electric batteries while the scooter or bike is docked.

The Swedish start-up has been making parking infrastructure since 2018 but the latest product marks a move into charging, chief executive Marcus Adolfsson said.

“We saw the natural development of this was to start charging.

When they’re parked why are they not charging?” he said.

Marma was initially piloted in Stockholm, where Standab is based, with Dott, one of Europe’s largest micromobility companies.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our integration into cities,” Laurent Kennel, chief development officer at Dott, added.

“This pilot with Standab has shown that a charging solution can be combined with neat, organized parking in city centers, to ensure riders can always find a vehicle which is ready to use, whenever they need it.”

With the findings from the pilot, Standab now plans to expand the new product to between four to seven European cities in 2024 and is in talks with many of the major operators around the continent.

Collaborating with operators is a key issue, Adolfsson said.

“We saw that the main issue was the compatibility, it has to be compatible with everyone.

Cities are not interested in having, for example, Tier come with their charging solution when there are three or four more players there.

It has to be compatible

[with] everyone.”

Marma can solve issues for both the operators and city authorities, he added.

Parking of e-scooters has been a major bugbear in cities with reckless parking or discarding of vehicles, which can cause injuries, being a hot button issue.

This was a major factor behind Paris’s rental services earlier this year.

“The cities have a real issue that we’re solving and it’s of course the parking issue,” Adolfsson said.

“The good thing here is that we are all interested in the same areas, it’s the high footfall areas.

The operators, that’s where they have parking problems as well, and it’s also where they have the highest rotation of scooters.

Of course they want their fleet to be topped up [with energy] as much as possible.”

For the e-scooter operators, they can keep more units on the streets with enough juice while appeasing the concerns of city officials.

This, Adolfsson added, can be more cost effective than the practice of swapping out drained batteries in the fleet.

“Swapping a battery is extremely expensive for the operators, it’s a high manual cost and we’re going to be able to deliver that same amount of electricity into the battery at a much lower cost than manual swapping,” he said.

According to Standab, the Marma stands can charge a battery about 20% to 25% in an hour.

“If you take a scooter that has been there for an hour, you get an extra 25% of battery which will give it more or less an extra day of operations on the streets.”

Standab generates revenue from the operators who pay for the electricity used plus a premium.

“Cities get the infrastructure for free.

The operators get the infrastructure for free as well as the connectors and everything.

We are more charging as a service, the operators pay for exactly what amount of electricity is going into the scooter with a premium there.”

Adolfsson said that Standab has deployed 1,700 of its previous parking racks in dozens of European cities and hopes to replicate that with Marma.

He is joined in running Standab by Eric Bergqvist, who previously held senior public policy roles at Voi, one of Europe’s largest e-scooter players.

Several other former Voi executives have also joined the company.

Adolfsson said that the start-up has been largely self-financed to date but will explore opportunities from outside investors to fund the expansion of Marma.

Back Print

By Taiwo Adebayo – Associated Press – Wednesday, December 20, 2023 OMO FOREST RESERVE, Nigeria (AP) —

Men in dusty workwear trudge through a thicket, making their way up a hill where sprawling plantations lay tucked in a Nigerian rainforest whose trees have been hacked away to make room for cocoa bound for places like Europe and the U.S. Kehinde Kumayon and his assistant clear low bushes that compete for sunlight with their cocoa trees, which have replaced the lush and dense natural foliage.

The farmers swing their machetes, careful to avoid the ripening yellow pods containing beans that will help create chocolate, the treat shoppers are snapping up for Christmas.

Over the course of two visits and several days, The Associated Press repeatedly documented farmers harvesting cocoa beans where that work is banned in conservation areas of Omo Forest Reserve, a protected tropical rainforest 135 kilometers (84 miles) northeast of the coastal city of Lagos in southwestern Nigeria.

Trees here rustle as dwindling herds of critically endangered African forest elephants rumble through.

Threatened pangolins, known as armored anteaters, scramble along branches.

White-throated monkeys, once thought to be extinct, leap from one tree to the next.

Omo also is believed to have the highest concentration of butterflies in Africa and is one of the continent’s largest and oldest UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

Cocoa from the conservation zone is purchased by some of the world’s largest cocoa traders, according to company and trade documents and AP interviews with more than 20 farmers, five licensed buying agents and two brokers all operating within the reserve.

They say those traders include Singapore-based food supplier Olam Group and Nigeria’s Starlink Global and Ideal Limited, the latter of which acknowledged using cocoa supplies from the forest.

A fewer number of those working in the forest also mentioned Tulip Cocoa Processing Ltd., a subsidiary of Dutch cocoa trader and producer Theobroma.

Those companies supply Nigerian cocoa to some of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers including Mars Inc. and Ferrero, but because the chocolate supply chain is so complex and opaque, it’s not clear if cocoa from deforested parts of Omo Forest Reserve makes it into the sweets that they make, such as Snickers, M&Ms, Butterfinger and Nutella.

Mars and Ferrero list farming sources on their websites that are close to or overlap with the forest but do not provide specific locations.

Government officials, rangers and the growers themselves say cocoa plantations are spreading illegally into protected areas of the reserve.

Farmers say they move there because their cocoa trees in other parts of the West African country are aging and not producing as much.

“We know this is a forest reserve, but if you are hungry, you go to where there is food, and this is very fertile land,” Kumayon told the AP, acknowledging that he’s growing cocoa at an illegal plantation at the Eseke farming settlement, separated only by a muddy footpath from critical habitat for what UNESCO estimates is the remaining 100 elephants deep in the conservation zone.

Conservationists also point to the world’s increasing demand for chocolate.

The global cocoa and chocolate market is expected to grow from a value of $48 billion in 2022 to nearly $68 billion by 2029, according to analysts at Fortune Business Insights.

The chocolate supply chain has long been fraught with human rights abuses, exploitative labor and environmental damage, leading to lawsuits, U.S. trade complaints and court rulings.

In response, the chocolate industry has made wide-ranging pledges and campaigns to ensure they are sourcing cocoa that is traceable, sustainable and free of abuse.

Companies say they have adopted supply chain tracing from primary sources using GPS mapping and satellite technology as well as partnered with outside organizations and third-party auditors that certify farms’ compliance with sustainability standards.

But those working in the forest say checks that some companies rely on are not done, while one certifying agency, Rainforest Alliance, points to a lack of regulations and incomplete data and mapping in Nigeria.

AP followed a load of cocoa that farmers had harvested in the conservation zone to the warehouses of buying agents in the reserve and then delivered to an Olam facility outside the entrance of the forest.

Staffers at Olam’s and Tulip’s facilities just outside the reserve, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss their companies’ supplies, confirmed that they source cocoa from farmers in the conservation zone.

AP also photographed cocoa bags labeled with the names and logos of Olam and Tulip in farmers’ warehouses inside the conservation zone.

The Omo reserve consists of a highly protected conservation zone ringed by a larger, partially protected outer region.

Loggers, who are also a major source of deforestation, can get government licenses to chop down trees in the outer areas, but no licenses are given anywhere for cocoa farming.

Agriculture is banned from the conservation area, except for defined areas where up to 10 indigenous communities can farm for their own food.

Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil suppliers and largest economy; after petroleum, one of its top exports is cocoa.

It’s the world’s fourth-largest producer of cocoa, accounting for more than 5% of global supply, according to the International Cocoa Organization.

Yet it’s far behind the world’s largest producers, Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together supply more than half of the world’s demand and are often singled out in companies’ sustainability programs.

According to World Bank trade data and Nigeria’s export council, more than 60% of Nigeria’s cocoa heads to Europe and about 8% to the United States and Canada.

It passes through many hands to get there: Farmers grow the cocoa beans, then brokers scout farms to buy them.

Licensed buying agents purchase the cocoa from brokers and sell it to big commodity trading companies like Olam and Tulip, which export it to chocolate makers.

In October, AP followed a blue- and white-striped van loaded with bags of cocoa beans along a road pitted with deep mud holes within the conservation zone to an Olam warehouse just outside the entrance of the forest.

At the warehouse, which Olam confirmed was theirs, AP photographed the cocoa being unloaded from the van, whose registration number matched the one filmed in the forest.

Farmer Rasaq Kolawole and licensed buying agent Muraina Nasir followed the van to sell the cocoa, and neither expressed misgivings about the deforestation.

“We are illegal occupants of the forest,” said farmer Kolawole, a college graduate and former salesperson.

AP also visited four cocoa warehouses in the forest belonging to licensed buying agents: Kadet Agro Allied Investments Ltd., Bolnif Agro-allied Farms Nigeria Ltd., Almatem and Askmana.

Managers or owners all told AP that they buy from farmers growing cocoa in protected areas of the forest and that they sell that cocoa to Olam.

Three of the warehouse managers told AP that they also sell to Tulip and Starlink.

“They do not differentiate between cocoa from local – that is farms outside the forest – and the reserve,” said Waheed Azeez, proprietor of Bolnif, describing how “big buyers like Olam, Tulip and Starlink” buy cocoa sourced from deforested lands.

“They buy everything, and most of the cocoa is from the reserve.”

Despite AP’s findings, Olam insists that it “forbids” members of its “Ore Agbe Ijebu” farmer group from “sourcing from protected areas and important natural ecosystems like forests.”

That Ijebu farmer group is listed as a sustainable supplier on Olam’s website and is said to be in Ijebu Ife, a community near the reserve.

“Any farmers found not complying with the code and illegally encroaching on forest boundaries are removed from our supply chain and expelled from the OAIJ farmer group,” the company said in a statement emailed to AP.

However, Askmana manager Sunday Awoke said, “Olam does not know the farmers.

We buy from the farmers and sell directly to Olam, and no assessment against deforestation takes place.”

Speaking to AP as a convoy of motorcycles brought bags of cocoa from the conservation area to his warehouse within the reserve, Awoke said he used to be a conservation worker who fought deforestation by farmers.

“But I am on the other side now.

I wish to go back, but survival first, and this pays more,” he said.

Others agreed.

“The place is not meant for cocoa farming, but elephants,” said Ewulola Bolarinwa, who is both a broker and a leader of those who farm at the Eseke settlement inside the conservation zone.

“We have a lot of big buyers who supply the companies in the West, including Olam, Tulip and many more.”

Ferrero, which makes Ferrero Rocher hazelnut balls, Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread and popular Baby Ruth, Butterfinger and Crunch candy bars, lists a farming group in a community near the forest as the source of its cocoa supplied by Olam, the Italian company says on its website.

McLean, Virginia-based Mars Inc., one of the world’s largest end users of cocoa with brands from Snickers to M&Ms, Dove, Twix and Milky Way, uses Nigerian cocoa from both Olam and Tulip, according to online company documents.

Ferrero, Mars and Tulip say they’re committed to their anti-deforestation policies, use GPS mapping of farms, and their suppliers are certified through independent standards.

Ferrero also says it relies on satellite monitoring to show that its “cocoa sourcing from Nigeria does not come from protected forest areas.”

Mars says its preliminary findings show that none of the farms it’s mapped overlap with the reserve.

Tulip’s managing director, Johan van der Merwe, said in an email that the company’s cocoa bags, which AP photographed in farmers’ warehouses inside the conservation zone, are reused and distributed widely so it’s possible they’re seen across Nigeria.

He also said “field operatives” complete digital questionnaires about sourcing with all farmers and suppliers.

On the ground, however, farmers and licensed buying agents who said they supply Tulip told AP that they were not required to complete any questionnaire before their cocoa is purchased.

“Though we know they depend on our cocoa, we don’t directly sell cocoa to the exporters like Olam and Tulip, middlemen do, and there are no questions about deforestation,” said farmer Saheed Arisekola, 43, also a college graduate who said he turned to farming because he could not get a job.

As farmers, brokers and buying agents say cocoa from the conservation area flows into Olam’s export supply, U.S. customs records show a slice of where it might be going.

Olam’s American arm, Olam Americas Inc., received 18,790 bags of Nigerian cocoa shipped by its Nigerian subsidiary, Outspan Nigeria Limited, between March and April 2022, according to trade data from ImportGenius.

Olam and Tulip are both licensed to trade Nigerian cocoa certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

However, Olam told AP that its license does not cover the Ijebu area, where it sources the cocoa it sends to Ferrero and is near Omo Forest Reserve.

Ferrero says Olam’s sustainability standard in the area is verified by a third-party body.

Farmers who told AP that their cocoa heads to Olam and Tulip said they are not Rainforest Alliance certified.

Tulip has only one farm with active certification in Nigeria, the nonprofit’s database shows.

The Rainforest Alliance says it certifies that farms operate with methods that prohibit deforestation and other anti-sustainability practices.

It says farmers must provide GPS coordinates and geographic boundaries for their plantations, which are checked against public forest maps and satellite data.

The Rainforest Alliance told AP that Nigeria has “unique forest regulation challenges,” including incomplete or outdated data and maps that can “lead to discrepancies when comparing forest data with real on-ground conditions.”

It said it is working to get updated data from Nigerian authorities and would decertify any farms found to be operating illegally in conservation areas following a review.

The organization also says companies it licenses can buy cocoa certified by other agencies or that isn’t certified at all.

Starlink Global and Ideal Limited – the Nigerian cocoa exporter that the farmers and buying agents said they sell to – doesn’t have its own farmland in the reserve, “only suppliers from there,” spokesman Sambo Abubakar told AP.

Starlink does not make sustainable sourcing claims on its website, but it supplies at least one company that does – New York-based General Cocoa Co., U.S. trade data shows.

Between March and April 2023, Starlink shipped 70 containers, each loading 4,000 bags of dried cocoa beans, to General Cocoa, according to ImportGenius trade data.

General Cocoa, which is owned by Paris-headquartered Sucden Group, supplies Mars, according to online company documents.

Jean-Baptiste Lescop, secretary general of Sucden Group, says the company manages risks to forest conservation by sourcing Rainforest Alliance cocoa, mapping farms and using satellite images but that it’s a “continuous process” because most farmers in Nigeria don’t have official land ownership documents.

Sucden investigates reports of problems and is working on a response to AP’s findings about Starlink, Lescop said.

The conservation zone, which spans about 650 square kilometers (250 square miles), is the only remaining vital rainforest in Nigeria’s southwest, conservation officials say.

Such forests help absorb carbon from the atmosphere and are crucial for Nigeria to meet its pledges under the Paris climate agreement.

Besides helping fight climate change, the forest is designated an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area by BirdLife International, with significant populations of at least 75 bird species.

“There are now more than 100 illegal settlements of cocoa farmers, who came from other states because the land here is very fertile,” said Emmanuel Olabode, a conservation manager who supervises the reserve’s rangers in the protected areas.

“But after some years, the land becomes unproductive.”

The farmers know this.

“We’ll then find another land somewhere else or go back to our original homes to start new businesses,” said Kaseem Olaniyi, who acknowledges that he farms illegally in the conservation zone after moving in 2014 from a neighboring state.

The government in Ogun state, which owns the forest, said in a statement to AP that the “menace of cocoa farming” in the reserve dates back decades and that “all the illegal farmers were forcefully evicted” in 2007 before they found their way back.

“Arrangements are in the pipeline to engage the services of the Nigerian Police Force and the military to evict them from the Forest Reserve,” the government statement said.

However, Omolola Odutola, spokeswoman for the federally controlled police, said they do not have records of such a plan.

The farmers have been ordered not to start new farms, and those who spoke with AP said they are complying.

But forest guards said new farms are sprouting up in remote areas that are difficult to detect.

Rangers – who work for the government’s conservation partner, the nonprofit Nigerian Conservation Foundation – and forest guards who are employed by the state government both told AP that lax government enforcement has made combating cocoa expansion a challenge.

They told AP that previous arrests have done little to stop the farmers from returning and that has led to a sense of futility when they encounter illegal farming.

The state government said it “has never compromised regulations” but acknowledged that farmers are in the forest despite its efforts.

Homes and other buildings at farming settlements visited by AP have been marked for removal, including warehouses like that of licensed buying agent Kadet, one of the biggest there.

Farmers’ homes lack running water and toilets, forcing women and children to collect water from narrow streams to use while the men work.

The removals have not taken place because officials make money from the cocoa business in the forest, according to farmers and buying agents, who lament the difficult living conditions, with mud roads filled with holes creating high transportation costs that eat away their already meager profits.

The state government declined to comment about making money from illegal cocoa farming in the forest.

The agents have formed a lobby group that has “rapport with government officials” to ensure farmers remain in the conservation zone despite threats to evict them, said Azeez, the owner of buying agent Bolnif who is also chairman of a committee that monitors risks against cocoa business in the forest.

The European Union, the largest destination of cocoa from West Africa, has enacted a new regulation on deforestation-free products that requires companies selling commodities like cocoa to prove they have not caused deforestation.

Big companies must ensure they’re following the rules by the end of 2024.

Experts at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria are launching a “Trace Project” in six southern states – though it doesn’t include Ogun state where Omo Forest Reserve is located – to advance efforts against deforestation in cocoa production and ensure Nigeria’s cocoa is not rejected in Europe.

“From the preliminary data collected, major exporters are implicated in deforestation, and it is their responsibility to ensure compliance with standards,” said Rasheed Adedeji, who leads the institute’s research outreach.

But farmers say they’ll keep finding places to work.

“The world needs cocoa, and the government also gets taxes because the cocoa is exported,” said Olaniyi, one of the farmers.


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