Hershey’s West African sustainability programme reinstated after being banned marks a key milestone

With sustainability being firmly at the core of many companies’ agendas within the confectionery sector, the breaking news that Hershey had been banned from carrying out its activities supporting cocoa farmers in West Africa was hugely significant.

This was an unprecedented act on the part of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Ivory Coast’s Conseil du cafe-cacao authorities was made as a decisive move to protect its recently introduced Living Income Differential scheme (LID), ensuring that manufacturers pay a premium of $400 per tonne of cocoa, as a key means of helping lift millions of farmers out of poverty alongside existing support schemes operated by confectionery groups and civil society organisations including Fairtrade.

Significantly, within a week of the story emerging, Ivory Coast has reinstated the US brand’s sustainability operations, after the company confirmed that it would be committed to the LID scheme going forward into 2021. The matter at the heart of this was the company’s reported decision to buy additional volumes of cocoa on the New York futures market, which is normally the preserve of stockmarket traders rather than companies taking physical supplies.

Ghana’s Cocoa Board has yet to respond to the situation, though Confectionery Production understands that conversations are ongoing with the country’s key cocoa body, which is understandably cautious about protecting a system that has taken a significant amount of time to agree with Ivory Coast in seeking a fairer deal for those who are the most vulnerable – the farmers- within critical supply chains serving the confectionery sector.

The fact that this appears to be coming to a swift resolution can only be seen as a welcome move for an industry facing ongoing major challenge – which were starkly laid bare in a report by Mondelez International last month that revealed the $10 billion income gap for West African farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast. As the study noted, far wider, scaled-up work on supporting the key cocoa industry growers is going to be required urgently if the sector is to have a sustainable future.


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