Chocolate Scorecard results highlights major need for raising cocoa farmer pay

The latest release of the annual Chocolate Scorecard from a group of 37 NGOs and universities assessing the state of the confectionery sector in terms of just how transparent and sustainable it is, has certainly provided some serious food for thought.

While, as we have reported in recent years, the sector has notably increased efforts to improve operating standards, and move at greater pace towards tackling major underlying issues of child labour, deforestation and fair payment of farmers, as the new global report notes, there is a significant distance to travel in terms of resolving many of these major issues.

Among the most significant issues raised in its report was the fact that only 11% of respondents from the sector’s biggest firms could claim they have full transparency in their supply chains, linked to claims that up to 40% of cocoa supplies are still being bought indirectly, making it notably hard to ensure efforts to be as transparent as possible.

It would take far more than the scope of one single blog to address these factors, but the single most potent message from the authors of the Chocolate Scorecard, co-ordinated by the Be Slavery Free NGO, is a simple call from the sector to enable greater, direct farmgate payments to workers in the cocoa trade in Ghana and Ivory Coast in particular.

In their view, it is this prime move that will prove a catalyst for delivering systemic change on some of the major ills facing West Africa, namely its still significant issue with child labour (with 1.5 million minors still vulnerable to being employed in the sector for hazardous activities), as well as deforestation linked to industry, including cocoa production, and other agricultural segments.

Collectively, as we have reported, industry, in the form of major players including Mars, Mondelez, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Hershey and Nestle, have all instituted their own individual sustainability policies over the past decade, which are continuing to make inroads into these major combined issued that are linked to underlying poverty in West Africa.

These measures include a raft of genuinely encouraging initiatives including greater use of agroforestry techniques to improve farming methods, traceability schemes involving satellite mapping of farms, as well as packages supporting access to education for children in the region. All these measures are indeed extremely valuable in raising the quality of life for extremely hard-pressed smallholder farmers who continue to make up the vast bulk of the industry.

Another significant factor in these issues is support from governments in the region – with authorities in both Ghana and Ivory Coast putting their weight behind introducing a Living Income Differential price (of $400 per tonne of cocoa), which by all accounts has had mixed success since its introduction several years ago. Fairtrade is also continuing to engage on the issue to deliver additional cocoa premiums, which are helping.

But ultimately, as the Cocoa Barometer report recently asserted, without coming back to the core issue of raising pay significantly for farmers at the ‘farmgate level,’ hopes of solving all the inter-related significant socio-economic issues are ‘just a pipedream’ in its opinion.

The industry as a whole is clearly under the microscope more than ever before, and ambitious targets have been put down – including Barry Callebaut’s Forever Chocolate that aims to lift 500,000 farmers out of poverty within the next three years. Mars put forward its Sustainable in a Generation package of support for agricultural communities totalling around $1 billion over a decade, which are all certainly moving the issue in the right direction.

However, surely, as many individual observers, companies and consumers have noted, an essential linked ingredient to the success of such schemes, is  with farmers presently in many instances still earning less than $1 day, well below UN-defined poverty levels.

There’s been a growing breed of companies that are challenging this position, working on the basis that the industry – and indeed consumers, will all have to get used to paying more for their much-loved chocolate, if they want the sector to continue as we know it. As the latest Chocolate Scorecard reveals, continuing as the situation is now, is simply not an option in the eyes of many industry observers and concerned consumers around the world.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production


Related content

Leave a reply

Confectionery Production