Fairtrade Fortnight aims for living wage for Ivory Coast farmers

Fairtrade Fortnight began in the UK this week, and its commendable work has an especially potent message this year.

Its core aim for 2019 centres on calling on assistance for women cocoa farmers in West Africa, specifically Ivory Coast, the vast majority of whom are working in below poverty line conditions.

Though this may not be a new revelation in itself, the fact that it’s still a major problem is deeply concerning – along with the fact that over two million children are still being employed as labourers in the cocoa sector in Africa.

While the major corporations including Mondelez International, Mars, Barry Callebaut and Olam have all instituted their own sustainability schemes to address these key topics of our times, there’s still a considerable way to go in bringing about long-term change for those at the sharp end of the sector.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation’s latest research, women in Ivory Coast earn just 74p a day, well short of the £1.86 mark that is considered enough for a living wage.

It’s a subject that we have covered on a number of occasions within the pages of Confectionery Production after, including covering the World Cocoa Conference and Chocoa over the past couple of years, which have had farmer welfare as key elements of the events.

As we have previously reported, Ivory Coast in particular is facing challenging conditions, with the government halting introduction of hybrid crops, which some industry observers have claimed, holds the key to improving crop yields and productivity.

But beyond any such measures, perhaps the most obvious move to help improve the lives of those working in the sector has been highlighted by founder of Hotel Chocolat, Angus Thirlwell, speaking at the Academy of Chocolate’s annual conference.

He asserted that the best way to help farming communities was simply to significantly raise the cost of chocolate products as a whole, which would lead to a direct increase in farmer wages. Whether the market, and indeed consumers are quite ready for that, is hard to say, but it if a trend for more premium confectionery is anything to go by, perhaps the timing is right to re-appraise what we’re all paying for our chocolate.

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