Exclusive: World Cocoa Conference places core focus on improving farmer income

A major focus on delivering a living income for farmers will form the central theme for this year’s World Cocoa Conference, which is set to take place in Brussels, returning after a pandemic-impacted six year break, reports Neill Barston.

Confectionery Production has been confirmed as media partner for this year’s Belgian event, taking place at the Square One centre, between April 21-24, which will attract high level industry speakers who will discuss some of the major topics facing the industry as it grapples with major challenges of high cocoa prices and strains on supply chains.

To date, confirmed keynotes for this year’s event include Catherine Entzminger, of the European Cocoa Association, Timothy S McCoy, of Hershey, Joseph Boahen Aidoo of Ghana’s Cocoa Board, Harper McConnell of Mars, and Chris Vincent, the president of the World Cocoa Foundation among many others.

Speaking exclusively to Confectionery Production, Michel Arrion, executive director of organisers, the ICCO, explained that while there remain significant tests in the market, he felt that through collaborative action, then the key issues of pricing in the market can be solved.

Michel Arrion, executive director, ICCO. Pic: ICCO


Discussing this year’s event, he said: “I am excited by this year’s conference, which will be opened by the Queen of Belgium, so there will be high level representation there, including from the EU Commission, and from producing countries, from both Africa and Latin America.

“I am also very excited by the main theme, which will be addressing how to achieve a living income through sustainability and through higher prices, and paying more and paying better. There will be 12 panels for the event, including more technical focuses on themes relating to the three chapters of the International Cocoa Agreement, looking at sustainable cocoa, market developments, and markets and governance, which are linked to discussions on living income. So all together, this is a very focused programme.”

Clearly, the sector remains under notable pressure, so how hopeful is he that the issue of pay in particular can be resolved to help ensure farmers earn a living wage, which has been of central concern to many across the industry?

The ICCO director added: “I think that the biggest challenge is to convince the markets and the governments that higher farmgate prices are a conditio sine qua no (or a necessary but not sufficient condition) for a sustainable cocoa. And the only way to achieve higher farmgate prices, is to have higher international prices, less volatile, more stable. The current situation of a bullish market offers great opportunities in that direction. Only remunerative prices will convince farmers (and their children) to continue growing cocoa.”

See our next edition of Confectionery Production for an extended interview with Michel Arrion ahead of this year’s must-attend event for the cocoa sector.


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