Tony’s Chocolonely calls on brands to match Fairtrade cocoa prices amid major Ivory Coast challenges

Cocoa farming in West Africa (pic Ben Rotthoff/Koa)

Netherlands-based confectionery B-Corp Tony’s Chocolonely has unveiled its latest campaign, The Big Choco Sale, reacting to a ‘devastating’ 18.5% cut in farmgate prices paid to key sector workers in the Ivory Coast, reports Neill Barston.

The Fairtrade-certified chocolate brand noted the West African nation supplies 44% of the world’s cocoa crops used within the global sweets and snacks industry, is experiencing challenging conditions amid the backdrop of the covid pandemic.

Consequently, it is calling on major confectionery companies to collectively match Fairtrade prices in a bid to ensure sustainability within the industry, and deliver a living income for core agricultural communities. The brand highlighted the fact the drop in prices directly impacts on levels of child labour and environmental deforestation that must be addressed as a priority.

As reported by Confectionery Production, the drop in farmgate payments by the Ivory Coast government that controls production levels, comes in the wake of the region also recording some of its largest ever harvests, with a mixed picture of levels of demand around the world for the crucial raw ingredient.

With a drop in farmgate prices, the recently agreed Living Income Differential payments of $400 per tonne for farming operations across Ghana and Ivory Coast are effectively wiped out by the drop in payments made directly to farmers, many of whom are living in  below UN-defined poverty levels, earning less than $1 a day.

According to Tony’s, which itself has a longstanding sourcing agreement with Barry Callebaut for segregated cocoa supplies, the resulting price drop in cocoa will have no impact on the price of chocolate for consumers. The confectionery firm said that it believed savings are unlikely to be passed on, and instead some big chocolate companies will enjoy greater profits as they did when the farmgate price dropped in mid-2017.

However, Tony’s has recently endured criticism for its links to sourcing from a major B2B supplying company in a region know to have ongoing issues with child labour – believed to affect 1.5 million minors in West Africa, according to recent NORC at the University of Chicago studies on labour patterns within the sector.

In response, as previously reported, Barry Callebaut has pledged to eradicate the issue from its supply chains by 2025, as part of its Forever Chocolate programme. Furthermore, Tony’s has stated its policy of paying additional premiums for segregated cocoa and additional payments have been in order to create as transparent a supply chain as possible.

In a statement, Tony’s commented on the situation: “The bitter truth is that the farmers producing the cocoa are the ones getting a raw deal. Farmers that are already living in systemic poverty will experience a devastating 18.5% drop in income. That’s the difference between having enough food and going hungry. The difference between children being able to go to school and having to do dangerous work on cocoa farms.”

The business added that the move for companies paying more for cocoa was a crucial step in driving modern slavery and illegal child labour out of the industry. In addition, the ethically-founded business is also calling on consumers to ask their favourite chocolate brands to increase how much they pay for their cocoa.

As Tony’s explained, it voluntarily pays a higher price for its cocoa, consenting to an additional premium and a co-op fee on top of the Fairtrade premium to bridge the gap between the farmgate price and Living Income Reference Price. The total Tony’s premium paid on top of the farmgate price will increase from $462 to $793 per tonne of cocoa in 2021/22 to ensure farmers are not impacted by this significant price drop.

Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact at Tony’s Chocolonely, said: “In 2001 a pledge was made by the world’s biggest chocolate producers to end illegal child labour in the cocoa industry. Yet 20 years later, child labour and modern slavery are still systemic in cocoa. Poverty is the root cause of this.

“Low cocoa prices, which support the profits of large chocolate companies over the livelihoods of small holder farmers, is a step in the wrong direction.

“At Tony’s we have made a pledge to make all chocolate 100% free of modern slavery and illegal child labour. We believe this should be the norm throughout the industry, but we cannot achieve it alone. We invite consumers to choose more consciously and to demand that their favourite chocolate brands pay cocoa farmers fairly. And we call on all chocolate companies to pay the Living Income Reference Price for their cocoa to enable farmers to earn a living income as a crucial step in helping farmers out of poverty.”

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