CAOBISCO welcomes Cocoa Barometer study noting industry action required on sustainability

The newly released Cocoa Barometer report on the state of the cocoa industry has been welcomed by CAOBISCO, the association of chocolate industries of Europe, regarding actions needed by the sector and civil organisations to deliver on key sustainability goals, reports Neill Barston.

As Antonie C. Fountain, managing director of the Voice Network, and co-author of the study explained to Confectionery Production on its release, it was ‘time for systemic change’ within the industry, with enforceable human rights legislation, increased farmer payments and scaled-up community initiatives with due diligence monitoring being at the heart of required measures.

Among the key areas highlighted in the study is the fact that West Africa including Ghana (featured in main image, with a guide demonstrating cocoa resources in Kakum National Park), and Ivory Coast, as well as Cameroon and Nigeria account for two thirds of the industry, and have seen cocoa production more than double from 1.37 million tonnes to 3.47 million tonnes over the past 30 years, yet those working within the sector remain largely below the UN-defined poverty line.

Following the release of the report several weeks ago, the Voice Network added further concerns regarding the situation of covid-19 that had further impacted on the sector. It also noted there were further issues of supply transparency that had emerged in the wake of companies including Hershey, Olam and Mars come under the spotlight for their sourcing choices – which they have responded to in stating their commitment to sustainability policies including the Living Income Differential farmer payment scheme.

Reflecting on the Barometer study, which is conducted every two years, CAOBISCO noted that the European Union has made renewed progress with a EU multi -stakeholder platform on sustainable cocoa, which it hoped would address these major issues raised by the Barometer over the next two years.

Furthermore, the organisation stressed that its members remain committed to ensuring that their products are manufactured responsibly and to the highest standards, minimising environmental impact and respecting the human rights of those in their value chains. It is a shared responsibility for all supply chain actors, to collectively achieve a sustainable cocoa supply chain and address systemic environmental and human rights issues.

This was raised at the recent World Cocoa Foundation partnership meeting, and CAOBISCO believed an EU legislative framework for mandatory due diligence would need to be linked to partnership agreements between the EU and cocoa producing countries ensuring capacity building at producing country level, accountability, good governance practices. This in turn, it believed, would lead to further professionalisation of farmers and investments in infrastructure and technology.

As previously reported, the issue of enhanced legislative programmes has been identified by a number of industry observers, including the Voice Network, with many noting that unless sustainability schemes are fully enshrined in internationally recognised law, few if any penalties exist for activity or behaviour that does not meet agreed standards.

In addition, CAOBISCO stated that the building block of sustainability revolves around creating a living income for farming communities, with the chocolate industry working closely with governments, farmers, and other partners to transform farms into modern businesses that enable farmers to earn sufficient income to achieve a decent standard of living.

Crucially, the European sector has supported  the new Living Income Differential (LID) that Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana introduced in July 2019 as part of a strategy to raise farmer income, which has instituted a premium of $400 per tonne upon manufacturers to boost worker income levels . Companies have independently and voluntarily incorporated the LID into their individual procurement plans for the 2020/21 crop season.

Moreover, CAOBISCO added that the LID and company sustainability programmes must be seen as complementary, with the long-term sustainability of the sector depending on farmers receiving fair remuneration for their crop and vice versa: a long-term increase in farmer remuneration must come from responsible cocoa production, with due attention to child labour, deforestation, and stable long-term supply-side management.

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