(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast signaled it’s making progress in fighting deforestation, a key issue that the world’s top cocoa producer faces in order to keep exporting to the crucial European Union market.

Satellite monitoring indicates that the country reduced its annual deforestation rate to about 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) in the three years to 2021, from an average 300,000 hectares a year between 1990 and 2015, the forestry ministry said. A Cocoa and Forests Initiative adopted with neighboring Ghana in 2018 played a large part in the reduction, it said.

Cocoa production has been a major driver of deforestation in Ivory Coast, where more than 80% of forest cover has been lost since the 1960s. It’s facing increasing consumer pressure to grow the chocolate ingredient more sustainably, and the EU is gearing up to introduce legislation aimed at eliminating the risk that products sold in the bloc cause deforestation.

The EU is also concerned about the use of child labor and improving the income for cocoa farmers.

Ivory Coast plans to expand forest area to 20% of its territory by 2030 and has been planting trees to reforest land. Still, it has faced some criticism in recent years that more needs to be done. A 2020 report published by the World Cocoa Foundation, which represents cocoa and chocolate industries, said targets for tree distribution were far from being met.

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