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Cocoa conference: Hunger prices for cheap chocolate

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

cocoa on the tree
Cocoa plantation poverty: The living conditions of many cocoa producers are still catastrophic. Photo © Pixabay

"The cocoa sector will only be sustainable when farmers earn a living." This was stated in the Berlin Declaration adopted at the end of the 4th International Cocoa Conference that took place recently in the German capital. The three-day meeting of around 1,500 cocoa industry players focused on the continuing catastrophic living conditions of cocoa producers, particularly in West Africa. We took a closer look on the cocoa industry and on the organic sector.

Logo "World Cocoa Conference 2018"
The fourth World Cocoa Conference took place in Berlin.

The cocoa barometer published by development organisations every three years makes the situation clear. Cocoa prices fell by a third between September 2016 and February 2017 and have only recovered slightly since then. Farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast cover a large part of the world's cocoa requirements.


Poverty fueled child labour

Fairtrade International Logo
In addition to child labour, Fairtrade International mentions deforestation, a lack of infrastructure and rampant corruption as problems in the producing countries.

According to Fairtrade International, a livelihood income for a cocoa farmer in Ivory Coast would be $2.51 per day. At present, according to the cocoa barometer, it will be just 78 cents in 2018. The resulting poverty also fuels child labour. It has grown to 2.1 million children in West Africa alone as a result of increased production, the report says, citing deforestation, lack of infrastructure and rampant corruption as problems in the producing countries.

The efforts made so far by the large companies that trade and process cocoa are far from sufficient from the point of view of the development organisations. Certification is no solution either. "None of the important standards (Rainforest Alliance, UTZ or Fairtrade) has significantly helped farmers to earn a living, reduce child labour and stop environmental degradation. In the summary of the barometer, its authors call on certification organisations to make a living income a basic requirement and to calculate minimum prices at the level of farmers on the basis of this.

Farmers must earn more

"The net income of the people who grow cocoa must become the focus of all sustainability efforts by companies, governments and non-governmental organisations," says Friedel Hütz-Adams of the Südwind-Institut, which helped to develop the barometer. And because the cocoa sector "has not achieved this in many years through voluntary initiatives, governments should make this respect for human rights mandatory by law.


A spoonful of chocolate
Cocoa farmers in the countries of origin pay a high price for cocoa, which is used for chocolate, for example. Because their wages are usually not even enough to secure their livelihood. Photo © Pixabay

For Johannes Schorling of the Inkota development network, chocolate must become significantly more expensive: "Companies and politicians must no longer rely solely on increasing farmers' yields. We finally need a debate on higher cocoa prices at this world cocoa conference," Schorling said in the run-up to the conference. There were and in the Berlin Declaration the demand for a living income can be found in several places. "All stakeholders should develop and implement strategies to ensure that cocoa producers earn a living," it says at the very beginning of the recommendations. Whether words will be followed by action remains to be seen.


Is organic better there?

The cocoa barometer and the debate refer mainly to the producing countries in West Africa, where almost exclusively conventional cocoa is grown. Organic cocoa comes mostly from Central and South America, where poverty is not as severe as in West Africa. See earlier articles on the topic of cocoa on Organic traders and manufacturers pay significantly higher prices than usual on the world market.


Cocoa beans
According to Fairtrade International, the world market price for raw cocoa is particularly susceptible to fluctuations. Photo © Pixabay

But in general, organic and bio-fair food from the countries of the South is very often subject to the fact that the producer prices paid do not provide a livelihood. 


Additional income thanks to mixed cultivation

Naturland logo

In the run-up to the cocoa conference, Naturland President Hubert Heigl spoke out in favour of incomes that would secure one's livelihood. "This can only be achieved with fair minimum prices and planning security through long-term supply contracts that protect small farmers and their families from the extreme price fluctuations on the world cocoa market. More than 4,000 Naturland farmers worldwide would grow organic cocoa in mixed cultivation on more than 13,000 hectares. Heigl describes the advantage here as being that near-natural cultivation in mixed cultivation with a large number of farmers supplies cocoa, citrus fruits, bananas, avocados as well as firewood and timber, thus providing an additional income.

Further alternatives: The company Fairafric produces organic-fair chocolate in Ghana and thus increases the value added in the country. The conventional Dutch company Tony's Chocolonely pays the cocoa farmers with whom it cooperates a premium so high that it provides a livelihood income.





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