To continue consuming chocolate, we need to pay more producers

PARIS: To reduce deforestation and continue the flavor of bars and chocolate squares, cocoa producers need to be better remunerated, who according to cooperatives and fair trade actors have always suffered from low prices.

From Peru to Ghana, where the prized bean pods are grown, “some producers can’t eat three meals a day,” hammered Cesar Paz, president of the Symbol of Peasant Producers (SPP) label, during a roundtable Friday. Salon du Chocolat in Paris.

According to Julie Stall, general representative of Commerce Equitable France, “since the 1980s it has been divided by three”, specifically a 30% decrease in 2017.

Conventional cocoa, priced like many commodities on the New York Stock Exchange, currently sells for about $2,300 a ton. One certified by a label like SPP, made by Latin American producers, “sells between $3,000 and $3,500” per ton.

Evidence of a certain fever, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, boycotted a meeting organized by the World Cocoa Foundation in Brussels on Wednesday to protect their farmers’ incomes.

These former competitors joined forces in the Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative in 2021, to try to guarantee them a profitable price and “ensure the sustainability of the cocoa economy”.

They have already introduced the “Differential of Decent Income” (DRD) in this context, a bonus of $400 per tonne in addition to the market price.

Relatively poor in this sector, producers receive just 6% of the $100 billion annual world cocoa and chocolate market.

Imported deforestation

Cocoa cultivation still causes widespread deforestation today, especially in West Africa.

With a better income, farmers “can hire more local labor or farms with agroforestry practices,” defends Julio Valencia, general manager of Herencia Chocolate, a cooperative that brings together 600 families from small producers in Ecuador.

“When there are no more forests, the natural fertility of the soil is lost, production decreases little by little. Then we must use chemicals that harm the soil, water and health”.

One solution is to plant shade trees, which protect the cacao trees from the sun. This makes it possible to better anticipate the effects of climate change and produce better quality chocolate.

In the coming months, the sector will also be shaken by a “revolution”, as the European Commission is working to ban the import of several products from forests such as soybeans, coffee or cocoa from 2021.

This future regulation of “imported deforestation” will force importers such as chocolate manufacturers to guarantee traceability in their supply chain.

The decision will have a “drastic” impact, welcomed Julie Stoll, who, however, urged caution over the way it would affect smaller producers.

They, in fact, have to comply with these new standards, “even though they have been encouraged for decades for intensive production in monocultures with many chemical inputs”.

Industrialists must bear some of these costs anyway, and announcements of sustainability programs on plantations have multiplied in recent weeks.

Multinational Mars Wrigley (M&M’s, Snickers) recently pledged to “use 100% responsible cocoa in Europe by 2023” in its chocolate factories.

The group said, “its plans specifically aim to combat deforestation, advance human rights and support cocoa farmers and their communities”.

On Wednesday, the Mondelez Group (Milca, Toblerone) also announced its intention to invest an additional $600 million by 2030 in its Cocoa Life program. These will be used over time to “improve the living conditions” of 300,000 cocoa farmers, with “an increase in net income of around 15% in Ghana and 33% in Côte d’Ivoire”.

An “awareness” that is welcome, according to Julie Stoll, “but often does not guarantee a price”, she laments.

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