Payment increases to Ivory Coast cocoa farmers offer industry hope

The past couple of years have seen corporate agendas dominated by initiatives aimed at addressing major issues within the cocoa supply chain.

As Confectionery Production has reported from the World Cocoa Conference this Spring, and more recently at the UK’s Academy of Chocolate annual conference, there are very real, significant threats facing the sector.

With farmers in key markets of Ghana and Ivory Coast in many instances reportedly being paid below the UN definition of poverty wages of under $2 dollars a day, as many observers have noted, this is not a sustainable situation.

Chocolate-based confectionery needs cocoa, but without an enhanced level of support for Africa in particular, then the future of the industry remains uncertain.

So it was particularly welcome news to discover earlier this month that the Ivory Coast is increasing the set level of pay to farmers, from 750 francs ($1.34) per kg, from its previous low of 700. It’s not a major rise, and is still some way off the rates of over 1000 francs being paid before a major slump in prices two years ago.

However, it is a start, and may well prove a catalyst for broader change, though concerns remain in Ghana (which has a slightly higher rate of pay for cocoa), but is reportedly not set to increase farmer payments this year.

While the news in Ivory Coast is a positive step forward, according to a Bloomberg agency report, , president of cocoa regulator Le Conseil du Café-Cacao, the cocoa sector “is still in crisis.”

Thankfully, major confectionery companies including Mondelez International, Barry Callebaut, Mars and Nestle, have all intensified their sustainability efforts in directly assisting farmers, but addressing decades of under-investment in community infrastructures and farming techniques is a long-term vision that requires significant funding at national and international level.

As our November edition reports with Barry Callebaut, the company has offered to introduce stronger strains of cocoa crops, but the country has suspended this potentially critical agricultural programme amid alleged concerns of overproduction.

Consequently, many farmers are left with ageing cocoa plantations that are at higher risk of viruses that can severely damage crop yields.

Another major issue that is yet to be fully addressed is that of land management – with land in Ivory Coast not being registered or under managed ownership, this has led to significant problems with deforestation, which the governments of both Ivory Coast and Ghana have acknowledged cannot continue on its current scale.

Though the challenges are many and difficult, it is encouraging to see that confectionery companies are actively working with government to bring about tangible change – but all are aware of the huge task that is still before them.

Keep in touch at nbarston@bellpublishing.com or via social media @confectionprod

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