Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Chocolate industry needs sustainability to help producers in developing countries

The picture shows the disproportion among the gains received by cocoa producers and the revenues of chocolate manufacturers.

A market which operates on the basis of very low prices for cocoa, puts at risk the sustainability of cocoa growing. 

This is because most cocoa producers have some choice over what they grow. For example, a cocoa farmer who cannot make a living from growing cocoa may switch to producing palm oil. So, the chocolate industry worldwide supports several initiatives aimed at achieving better prices for cocoa growers. These include: 

Market information systems. Unlike many other crops, growers are able to store mature cocoa beans for up to a month. As a result, the grower does not necessarily have to sell to the first potential buyer. However, small farmers in remote areas of the Cote d'lvoire find themselves at a disadvantage compared with other growers. Because of their remote location they will have fewer opportunities available to them. They usually do not have Internet access and often lack key market information. The chocolate industry is providing data on current market prices to growers through Field Training Officers, and via newsletters. Armed with this data, together with advice and training, the grower is better placed to negotiate a fair trading price. 

Research. When cocoa growers produce a better yield of high quality cocoa beans, everyone benefits. The chocolate industry funds research into improving agricultural techniques and approaches. This has provided treatments for cocoa plant pests and diseases such as the Cocoa Pod Borer. Without support, farming families can lose well over a third of their crops each year from disease and pests.

 Training. The industry also funds a range of Field Schools for cocoa growers in Africa. These schools show farmers how to improve their production methods. This includes pruning dead cocoa pods; weeding around plants; planting suitable native trees alongside their cocoa. The schools cover other vital aspects too e.g. business management techniques; fair and proper treatment of workers. 

Read more at Business case studies

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