“2018 Cocoa Barometer” Report Paints Dark Chocolate Picture: As Prices Fall, Woes Rise for Farmers, Children, Forests

cocoa farmer
cocoa farmer



“Guilty Pleasure”: With Environmentally Damaging Overproduction and Insensitive Methods, Cocoa Sector Falls Far Short of Addressing Poverty, Deforestation, and Child Labor.


Berlin (April 19th, 2018) – Cocoa-growing communities, particularly in West Africa, are facing poverty, child labor and deforestation that have been made worse by a rapid fall in prices for cocoa. Widely touted efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment made in the past decade are having little impact. In fact, the modest scope of the proposed solutions does not even come close to addressing the scale of the problem. These are core conclusions of the “2018 Cocoa Barometer,” a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector.


Smallholder cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s leading cocoa producer, are already struggling with poverty and have seen their income from cocoa decline by as much as 36 percent over one year. That fact reflects the world market price for cocoa, which saw a steep decline between September 2016 and February 2017. Farmers bear the risks of a volatile price, and there is no concerted effort by industry or governments to alleviate even a part of the burden of this income shock.


This price collapse was caused by overproduction of cocoa in the past years at the expense of native forests. This can be equally blamed on corporate disinterest in the human and environmental effects of the supply of cheap cocoa, and to the near absence of government enforcement of environmentally protected areas.


“The Barometer demonstrates the urgent need for a cross-sector focus, including the large chocolate companies, on establishing a living income for farmers,” said Caroline Chen, Social Justice Campaigns manager at Green America. “The collapse in the price of cocoa means companies have been able to save on purchasing costs of cocoa, while farmers and sustainability initiatives have suffered.”


“As long as poverty, child labor and deforestation are rife in the cocoa sector, chocolate remains a guilty pleasure,” said Antonie Fountain, co-author of the Barometer. “Current approaches will not solve the problem at scale. Companies and governments need to acknowledge the urgency and make a change. Efforts that cover less than 50 percent of communities cannot be called ‘solutions.’”


“It's time for civil society, government and industry leaders to come together around solutions that will secure a living income for cocoa farmers,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of International Labor Rights Forum. “This edition of the Cocoa Barometer provides comprehensive insights into the multi-prong strategies needed to address entrenched poverty and endemic child labor in West Africa's cocoa sector.”


In addition to often wrenching poverty for cocoa farmers, there are a host of other problems:

  • An average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire earns only a third of what he or she should to earn a living income.
  • More than ninety percent of West Africa’s original forests are gone.
  • Child labor remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone. Child labor is due to a combination of root causes, including structural poverty, increased cocoa production, and a lack of schools and other infrastructure. Not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching their commitments of a 70 percent reduction of child labor by 2020.
  • A “broken” market in which farmers have no real influence. While many of the current programs in cocoa focus on technical solutions around improving farming practices, the underlying problems at the root of the issues deal with power and political economy, such as how the market defines price, the lack of bargaining power for farmers, market concentration of multinationals, and a lack of transparency and accountability of both governments and companies.

Recommendations for action in the report include the following:

  • Make net income the key metric for all sustainability projects.
  • Commit to a sector-wide goal of achieving a living income.
  • Commit to a global moratorium on deforestation; focus on agroforestry and reforestation as environmental solutions.
  • Move from voluntary to mandatory requirements on human rights as well as on transparency and accountability.
  • Develop sector-wide approaches at scale that address root causes of child labor.
  • Increase urgency and ambition to reflect the scale of the problems and implement changes that also address issues around power and political economy, not just at technical levels.

Available online at www.cocoabarometer.org, the new report – published by a large group of civil society organizations – is being released today as cocoa industry representatives start to gather in Berlin for the fourth World Cocoa Conference, held from April 22-24.





The Cocoa Barometer is published biennially by a global consortium of civil society actors; ABVV-FGTB/Horval (Belgium), FNV (Netherlands), Green America (USA), Hivos (Netherlands), Inkota Netzwerk (Germany), International Labor Rights Forum (USA), Mondiaal FNV (Netherlands), Oxfam (USA, Netherlands, Belgium), Public Eye (Switzerland), Solidaridad (Netherlands), Stop The Traffik (Australia/Netherlands), Südwind Institut (Germany), and the VOICE Network (Global).



The 2018 Cocoa Barometer, an Executive Summary, an FAQ, separate infographics and photographs of cocoa production can be found at www.cocoabarometer.org/press.html. Publication of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer is under embargo until midnight (Central European Time) in the night of Wed 18 till Thu 19 April.



Antonie Fountain


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