Will EU delay EUDR deadline?

With just nine months to go before the European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)​ deadline comes into force, food and drinks suppliers and manufacturers are working to ensure they comply, in order to guarantee uninterrupted operations into 2025 and beyond.

However, the EU has come under pressure in recent weeks to address rumours that it is planning to delay the implementation of EUDR, which is currently due to take effect on 30 December 2024.

The rumours appear to have started after a number of countries, which currently supply the EU, began voicing concerns about their ability to meet the regulation deadline and the money it will cost to enforce the changes.

What is EUDR?

EUDR stands for European Deforestation Regulation. It is an EU directive ensuring that all products on the EU market, and crossing into and out of the European Union, comply with EU deforestation regulation.

EUDR dictates that products containing any of the seven deforestation-risk commodities – soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa, coffee and rubber – must prove they do not originate from land deforested after 31 December 2020.

Companies must obtain certification to ensure their products comply with the regulation.

Supplier countries are pushing for a delay to the EUDR deadline

“Consumers in Europe won’t bear the cost for the extra expense, it will be the farmers,” said Indonesian coordinating minister of economic affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, during a recent press briefing. “Already, the EUDR’s traceability requirements necessitate new technology. Traceability is an additional cost [due to] administrative procedures.”

There is also a feeling amongst some supplier countries that the EU is attempting to dictate how they operate as Hartarto concluded, “it’s not up to Europe to tell us not to deforest.” However, the EU would argue in return that if supplier countries wish to continue deforestation actions then they can do so but EU manufacturers will not purchase from them.

During the second meeting of the Ad Hoc Joint Task Force (JTF) on EUDR, held on 2 February 2024 and attended by representatives and stakeholders of the five commodities identified, European Commission representatives acknowledged that deadlines in the EUDR are “challenging”. Furthermore, they are said to have “taken note” of the call for a delay of entry into application of the EUDR.

“Many companies aren’t prepared to ‘KYC’ the supply chain to the level required by EUDR which includes mapping the polygons of origin plots and importantly tracing each batch of goods imported from the EU to specific plots – on an ongoing basis,” Ofir Ardon, CEO of crop supply intelligence company Agritask, told FoodNavigator. “The regulation essentially requires operators to improve their transparency and be more accountable for their supply chains, and many have to accelerate their work in this regard. It’s not uncommon for food and beverage enterprises to be disconnected from their supply chains – especially those located abroad. They don’t readily have the expertise, resources, or processes in place today, nor are they fully aware of what they will need as the regulation starts to be enforced.”

Will EU delay EUDR deadline? GettyImages/wundervisuals

European manufacturers are also pushing for a delay to EUDR

The European Coffee Federation (ECF) recently sent a letter to the European Commission urging the delay of implementation of EUDR. The letter warned that the current deadline would be “shattering, not least for the millions of smallholder producers for whom the EU is a significant marketplace.”

The Brussels-based organisation represents 90% of the European coffee trade and industry, including Nestle SA, Illycaffe SpA and OFI. Its members import coffee from over 60 countries across the globe. Many manufacturers support the implementation of EUDR but with the right support and with the right amount of time or get organised.

“The ECF and its members remain fully committed to the spirit of the EUDR and will continue to work to ensure that the overall objective set out by the European Commission is met by all, when the time is right, without the numerous unintended consequences,” the letter concluded.

Different industries appear to be preparing and adapting better to the new legislation as Michelle Deugd, director of forests and agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance told FoodNavigator.

“We believe there’s a significant difference in readiness between coffee and cocoa supply chains under the EUDR, especially regarding traceability. Certified coffee supply chains are generally already operating at traceability levels suitable for compliance by the deadline. However, countries with many smallholder farmers may face more hurdles in achieving this. Conversely, cocoa supply chains are mostly operating at traceability levels that do not align with the EUDR. Nonetheless, we’ve observed the cocoa sector is more advanced than coffee in gathering geolocation data due to past sector-wide initiatives that advanced this information collection in certain cocoa-producing countries.”

EUDR 4 - GettyImages-dimarik

Will EU delay EUDR deadline? GettyImages/dimarik

Will EU delay EUDR deadline?

Though pressure to delay EUDR is intensifying, to allow suppliers and manufacturers to fully prepare, the EU is currently maintaining that the 30 December 2024 deadline will remain in place.

“The date of entry into effect is in the law adopted by the European Parliament and the Council and accordingly it is binding on the Commission as it is on companies,” Adalbert Jahnz, spokesperson the European Commission told FoodNavigator.

Other major organisations involved with the implementation of EUDR have supported this statement from the Commission.

“We have received no indication at this stage that the implementation of the EUDR will be delayed,” said the RA’s Deugd.

However, whether this will change in the coming months remains to be seen. It’s possible we may yet see a change at the eleventh hour but the EU is maintaining its position on the current deadline thus far.

What delays to EUDR do we know about?

What we do know for certain at this stage is that the European Commission may not be able to complete the benchmark analysis for supplier countries, based on data analysis and substantive dialogue, to classify them as high risk, standard risk or low risk as mandated by EUDR. However, the provisions of the law are very clear, stating that countries are by default standard risk, unless the Commission classifies them as low risk or high risk.

“We have communicated to our partner countries as well as openly in many different forums that we would take the time necessary to allow for solid data analysis and substantive dialogue with partner countries in the context of this benchmarking exercise,” explained the Commission’s Jahnz. “In particular countries that could end up being classified as high risk.”

EUDR - GettyImages-Christian Dauphin

Will EU delay EUDR deadline? GettyImages/Christian Dauphin

This isn’t the first time the EU has changed tack

The EU appears to be developing a reputation for delaying, weakening and even completely abandoning proposed legislation. Just recently, the pesticide bill​, which was due to see a 50% reduction in pesticide use in farms across Europe by 2030, was dropped following fierce protests from farmers across multiple countries. Similarly, the corporate sustainability due diligence directive (CSDDD​) was passed this week but with multiple amendments meaning that the number of companies affected has been reduced by approximately two thirds.

So what will happen with EUDR? Watch this space!