Exclusive: MIA delivers impact report after World Confectionery Conference accolade
L-R Francesco Tramontin, Brett Beach (MIA) and Alex Assanvo, of the Ivory Coast and Ghana Cocoa Initiative
MIA (Made In Africa) ethically-founded premium chocolate group has unveiled its latest impact report, detailing its expansion into producing chocolate in Ghana, seeking to drive enhanced benefits to farming communities, reports Neill Barston.
The company, which gained a sustainability accolade at our World Confectionery Conference in Brussels last September, has gained a notable foothold in the market with creating product ranges at source, enabling agricultural workers to gain higher wages through retaining full manufacturing at source, rather than exporting raw cocoa to external markets for processing.
As the company noted in its impact report – the statistics are revealing – with Africa presently producing 70% of cocoa supplies, yet it only physically creates less than 1% of chocolate, meaning that its key producing locations, including Ghana and Ivory Coast, are missing on significant value added production revenues.
Within Ghana, the company has recently delivered its Ghana Gold brand (below) of premium chocolate, produced within the country – this has enabled the company to support nine new suppliers in Africa, most notably a chocolate making team and a Fairtrade organic cocoa cooperative 1,000 members strong.
Furthermore, the business noted that in 2022, MIA increased its annual chocolate production, supporting the equivalent of 46 full-time jobs in Africa and sustaining 30 Ha of cocoa forests. In line with its commitment to support communities beyond the supply chain, the 1 for Change fund implemented perennial education and reforestation activities and supported two onetime projects.
Attaining key goals
Significantly, the company added that its work in Africa promoted eight of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrating that a for-profit business can also be a vehicle for positive change on the world’s poorest continent.
On the major issue of farmer wages, the impact report explained that its Fairtrade payment is based on paying a premium above the international farm gate price for cocoa. However, as MIA noted, even based on Fairtrade’s own studies, the extra premium is not enough for many farmers to earn a living income – with many falling below UN-defined poverty levels.
So, in both Ghana and Madagascar, MIA pays more than the Fairtrade premium to support farmer livelihoods and community development. Multiple of Fairtrade premium paid by MIA: Ghana: 1.5x, Madagascar: 4.0x, Weighted Average: 1.9x Value of Cocoa Purchased: US $39K.
Furthermore, beyond providing direct assistance to farming communities in seeking to pay them more through Fairtrade principles, as well as assisting with education through the “One for change girls education fund” providing scholarships in Madagascar, MIA has also been especially mindful of its environmental responsibilities.
Consequently, in both Madagascar and Ghana MIA sources cocoa from organic forests, with the business noting that organic farming is not simply just good for the planet, but also provides farmers a chemical-free work environment and allows them to grow food crops under the cocoa tree canopy (bananas, pineapples and more).
It also noted other health benefits, as in Africa, more than half of the population relies on forests for sources of medicinal plants, making access to organic forests that support diverse ecosystems crucial to community health. MIA sources cocoa from more than 1,000 farmers on a family farm in Madagascar and a
cooperative in Ghana. It measures impact on the environment by the hectares of forest that are required to produce MIA cocoa – with the company presently purchasing 24 tonnes of cocoa, sustaining 30 Ha of forest.
Speaking to Confectionery Production, Brett Beach, co-founder of MIA, (pictured centre of main image), said: “Both of the product ranges in Madagascar and Ghana hold a special place in my heart – being there in Madagascar for six years of my life made it feel like my second home- and the cocoa there is part of the 10% in the world that is fine flavour, so we consider that a real speciality, premium product.
“Ghana has great cocoa too, but it has what most people would think of as ‘a typical chocolate taste’ – so we have those different flavour profiles. When it comes to the distribution and actual impact that we can make, our target is to hit the mainstream market more.
“It’s coming from an area where you are hitting the mainstream in terms of farmers, as cocoa from there is on the stock market, it’s on the radar of all the issues facing the industry – child labour and on pricing, whereas in Madagascar, the pricing is much higher than Fairtrade, so you don’t have to worry about it there, as the market is taking care of the cocoa there, and the way it is perceived. In Ghana, we have a chance to make a larger impact in terms of people over time, as we can hit that larger part of the market – and it makes a certain statement at the heart of where the most cocoa is produced,” explained Brett, who said it was vital that chocolate production was kept locally within supply chains, including buying local cashew nuts, as well as packaging, and paying above Fairtrade rates.
As he acknowledged, it is likely to take some while to be adopted by larger supermarkets, but has had some strong feedback from stores where it is presently stocked, with consumers reporting a strong preference for the flavours being produced.
Brett added: “Where we really want to bring the focus is that to truly develop an economy, people need to make something, or have a sophisticated services industry. Africa has never gone through industrialisation to the degree that Europe, US and other places have experienced, so our main point is, we can talk about farming all day and night, but that can only support part of an economy. But if that’s the vast majority of people – in Madagascar, it’s 80% of people as subsistence farmers, it’s hard to ever create true prosperity without different industries working together – if you have those industries, then farmers will be paid more for their crops, as everyone rises up. If it’s just subsistence farming, it won’t get them beyond subsistence standard of living, which is not what they deserve, when other countries are living in the 21st century.”