To continue to eat chocolate, we will have to pay more producers

published on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 04:42

To deforest less and continue to taste bars and squares of chocolate, it will be necessary to better remunerate cocoa producers, who suffer from ever lower prices according to cooperatives and fair trade actors.

From Peru to Ghana, where the pods containing the precious beans are grown, “some producers cannot eat three times a day”, hammered Cesar Paz, president of the Symbol of Peasant Producers (SPP) label on Friday, during a round table organized at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris.

“It has been divided by three since the 1980s”, with in particular a 30% drop in 2017, according to Julie Stoll, general delegate at Commerce Equitable France.

Conventional cocoa, priced like many commodities on the New York Stock Exchange, currently sells for around $2,300 a ton. The one certified by labels like SPP, created by Latin American producers, “sells between 3,000 and 3,500 dollars” per ton.

Proof of a certain feverishness, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which produce around two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, boycotted on Wednesday the meeting organized by the World Cocoa Foundation in Brussels to defend the incomes of their growers.

These former competitors joined forces in 2021 in the Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative, to try to guarantee them a remunerative price and “ensure sustainability for the cocoa economy”.

They have already, in this context, introduced the “Differential of Decent Income” (DRD), a bonus of 400 dollars per ton in addition to the market price.

Poor relatives in the sector, producers receive only 6% of the 100 billion dollars annually that the world cocoa and chocolate market weighs.

– Imported deforestation –

Cocoa cultivation is still today the cause of massive deforestation, particularly in West Africa.

With a better income, farmers can “hire more local labor or farm organically with agroforestry practices”, defended Julio Valencia, general manager of Herencia Chocolate, a cooperative that brings together 600 families from small producers in Ecuador.

“When there is no more forest, the natural fertility of the soil is lost, production decreases little by little. We must then use chemicals that pollute the soil, water, and harm health,” said pointed to Cesar Paz.

One of the solutions is to replant shade trees, which protect the cocoa trees from the sun. This also makes it possible to better anticipate the impacts of climate change, and to produce better quality chocolate.

In the coming months, the sector will also be shaken by a “revolution”, because the European Commission has been working since 2021 to ban the import of several products from deforested land, such as soybeans, coffee or cocoa.

This future regulation on “imported deforestation” will oblige importers such as chocolate makers to guarantee traceability along their supply chain.

This decision will have “drastic” effects, welcomed Julie Stoll, who calls however to remain vigilant on the way in which it will affect small producers.

They will, in fact, have to comply with these new standards, “while they have been encouraged for decades to intensive production in monoculture, with a lot of chemical inputs”.

Industrialists will have to bear some of these costs anyway, and announcements of sustainability programs in plantations have multiplied in recent weeks.

The multinational Mars Wrigley (M&M’s, Snickers) recently pledged to use “100% responsibly sourced cocoa in Europe by 2023” in its chocolate factories.

Its plan “aims in particular to combat deforestation, advance respect for human rights and support cocoa farmers and their communities”, the group said.

On Wednesday, the Mondelez group (Milka, Toblerone) also announced its intention to invest an additional $600 million by 2030 in its Cocoa Life program. They will be used to “improve the living conditions” of 300,000 cocoa farmers in the long term, with “an increase of around 15% in Ghana and around 33% in Côte d’Ivoire in net income”.

An “awareness” which is welcome, according to Julie Stoll, “but often does not provide guarantees on the price”, she regretted.

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