Chocolate Industry Warned to Invest in Cocoa Production

10 Oct 2016

Cocoa farmers from the Ivory Coast are urging the chocolate industry to step up sustainability and fairtrade efforts or risk losing entire generations of producers who will be forced to leave the sector.

Fortin Bley, a cocoa farmer and secretary general of his co-operative CANN, and chair of the Fairtrade West Africa Producer Network, addressed delegates at the London Chocolate Forum last Friday (Oct 7) warning of the hardships many in the sector are facing and how there needs to be a common vision in order for the chocolate industry as a whole to survive in a sustainable and fair way.

He warned that farmers’ children see no future in cocoa and continue to switch to more profitable crops or head for the cities in the hope of finding a more dependable livelihood. As a result, the average age of cocoa farmers in West Africa is now 51.

“Behind every house made of mud is real hardship. If you want to continue consuming chocolate, we all need to have a common vision.  Ask us what we need, and we’ll talk to you, and we’ll take a decision together. That’s why we’ve chosen voluntarily, without any pressure, to migrate into Fairtrade certification, because we know they have human values, transparency and democracy,” he said. 

“For us, the Fairtrade Mark represents a dignified producer. So, if you really want to change the life of producers, work in partnership with us, and you’ll make us happy.”

Bley added how cocoa communities urgently need development, especially in West Africa, where many live on just US$2 a day or less. Farming communities continue to be blighted by child labor, and lack the essential services such as clean water, decent homes with electricity, adequate healthcare and education that most of us take for granted.

“Are we proud to see producers living like that? Do you think they can produce cocoa living this life? We need to change things.”

There are serious concerns across the industry about the long-term sustainability of the supply chain because fewer cocoa farmers will have a direct impact of chocolate volumes.  As a result, the US$150 billion global chocolate industry is facing a watershed moment as demand for cocoa is increasing, but farmers are ever more vulnerable to shocks caused by climate change and extreme poverty.

“It’s simply wrong that cocoa farmers who grow one of our most indulgent treats are going hungry themselves. The cocoa industry should be the envy of other markets, with demand for its products growing year on year, as more and more people around the world can afford to indulge their taste for chocolate, but cocoa farmers must be empowered to reach a living income for a truly sustainable chocolate industry,” says cocoa supply chain manager at the Fairtrade Foundation, Jon Walker.

“Fairtrade supports empowerment of cocoa farmers. Many have turned to Fairtrade to address key social and environmental challenges. We’d like to work with more businesses to drive through long lasting, impactful change so farmers can decide their own futures.”

Fairtrade Foundation says that while global companies have ramped up investment to ensure cocoa supplies and with regards to child labor, youth protection and climate change, all interventions should also help farmers to move to more sustainable production that addresses economic, social and environmental challenges. 


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