The End of Chocolate?

Chocolate Too Cheap to Be Sustainable. Farmers Making as Little as 50 Cents Per Day. Inadequate Responses Mounted So Far to Address Very Serious Problems.These are the findings of our new report: The Cocoa Barometer

Our new report, available online at www.cocoabarometer.org, is being released as cocoa industry representatives gather in Washington at the World Cocoa Foundation conference to discuss ongoing sustainability projects.  I will be in attendance as well, calling on companies to do more. The Cocoa Barometer found that unsustainably low cocoa prices – made possible by extreme poverty among West African cocoa producers, with farmers in Ghana earning as little as 84 cents per day, and Ivorian farmers earning only 50 cents per day – could jeopardize the future of chocolate, since young farmers are not replacing the current aging generation. Together, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire produce more than 50% of the world’s cocoa supply. Additional key findings in the 2015 U.S. edition of the report include:

  • Low incomes. West African cocoa farmers live well below globally defined poverty level of $2 per day. The lack of a decent livelihood for cocoa farmers leads to bad labor circumstances, human rights violations, and many other problems in the cocoa supply chain, including child labor.
  • Cocoa no longer offers an attractive future. Increasingly, younger generations of cocoa farmers are leaving cocoa, and older farmers are nearing the age of life expectancy.
  • High market concentration leads to greater farmer exploitation. Mergers and takeovers have resulted in just a few companies dominating up to 80 percent of the whole value chain, while farmers lack a sufficiently organized voice to be strong actors.
  • Certified chocolate production continues to increase globally, from just 2 percent reported in the first Barometer in 2009, to almost 16 percent of global chocolate sales in the 2015 “Cocoa Barometer.” The Barometer also indicates that there is far more certified cocoa available at the moment, than is being purchased on certified term. However, with the mainstreaming of certification, the challenges of certification are also increasing. Improvements in certification are needed, especially concerning impact on the ground, the quality of auditing, and unrest among farmers about low payments of premiums.
  • Current approaches won’t solve the problem. Most corporate sustainability efforts focus on increasing a farmer’s productivity. However, increasing yields must be coupled with an increased cocoa price for farmers. This means that chocolate needs to become more expensive. Crop diversification, tenure security, better infrastructure and access to information for farmers are also needed.

The report contains the following recommendations for action:

  1. Develop a living income model for smallholder cocoa farming.
  1. Address the price-setting mechanisms in order to increase prices at farm-gate level.
  1. Move from voluntary to mandatory sector-wide solutions.

Around the world, child labor is a symptom of extreme poverty and limited opportunity. In order to prevent children from working in dangerous settings, we must ensure that farmers, including women, sharecroppers and tenant farmers, are earning enough to harvest cocoa sustainably. All players in the cocoa value chain need to step up to the plate. Companies, governments, retailers, as well as consumers should take their shared responsibility, and truly start looking for new approaches to some of these longstanding problems. Read the full report at www.cocoabarometer.org. The Cocoa Barometer, produced by a network of European nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is a semi-annual report that reviews the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector. This latest edition was written in partnership with Green America, International Labor Rights Forum, and Oxfam America.

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