Fairtrade progress on farmer payment offers hope amid ongoing challenges

The latest analysis from Fairtrade on its achievements on the ground in Ivory Coast offers some potential light at the end of an especially long tunnel.

As the international organisation revealed, earnings for the critically important farming communities using its systems at the heart of the sector have risen by 85% in the space of several years to $4,937 in 2020/21, which can only be a welcome development.

It is also serves as a tangible response to those who have perhaps traditionally questioned how much impact Fairtrade can actually have on such complex markets – the answer, according to these latest figures, is a very definite yes – but there’s still some significant way to go on continuing to address wider issues of poverty, child labour and environmental concerns over deforestation that are all heavily interlinked.

As Fairtrade, which operates as a global certification non-profit organisation is all too aware, there is clearly no room for complacency, with significant levels of poverty existing within the region, which have been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic placing pressures on smallholder farmers as they continue to battle deflated prices of cocoa this year that threaten to derail some of the key gains of recent years.

The organisation noted recently in an interview with Confectionery Production that it is very much a question of additional collaborative work being required at government and industry level in order to bring about long-term sustainability for the sector, which remains in an extremely delicate condition.

Rightly, industry has responded with a number of major initiatives which we have previously addressed, including the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a multi stakeholder drive to support farming communities while actively working towards preservation of the key lands that the sector is heavily reliant upon. Then there is the ongoing issue of the Living Income Differential created by the region’s governments last October, but this too has encountered problems as the wider price of cocoa continues to fall in the region.

It was encouraging to note a recent sustainability conference between Ghana and Ivory Coast concluding that fair renumeration of farmers was at the core of creating a stable industry for the future – with Ghana’s Cocobod organisation stating that fair global pricing of cocoa would be vital to achieving this goal, which seems some way off as the commodity remains vulnerable to market fluctuations.

But the very fact that dialogue is happening between these two pivotal players for the world’s cocoa supplies (making up around two thirds of the industry), as they seek to build further consensus on a way forward for the sector – which remains a core element of their respective economies, and a central cog in the chocolate confectionery world.

Neill Barston,editor, Confectionery Production

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