Nigerian cocoa farmers were awarded the country’s first UTZ cocoa certification following a partnership between ingredients giant ADM and cocoa exporter Saro Agro-Allied which aimed to develop sustainable farming practices in the country.
A spokesperson for ADM told FoodNavigator.com the UTZ certification was an independent confirmation of the companies joint efforts to professionalise cocoa farmers through a recognised (commercial) public standard for cocoa sustainability.
“We are pleased that ADM can now offer UTZ Certified cocoa products, and are also confident that over the coming years, more and more growers in Nigeria can enhance their farming practices, improve their livelihoods, and eventually achieve certification,” said Scott Walker, managing director, ADM Cocoa.
As the consumer movement for sustainable and fair trade type products gains momentum, chocolate and cocoa suppliers are receiving more and more requests from customers for clarity in the supply chain.
Working with Solidaridad, the UTZ scheme was set up by a number of big industry players, including Mars, Nestle, Heinz Benelux, Cargill, Ecom and Dutch retailer Ahold, along with a number of development and environmental organisations.
ADM said it supported certificate holder Saro to organise almost 2,000 Nigerian cocoa farmers into 50 “farming clubs” to educate them about the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct.
The farmers were also trained on organic EU and National Organic Program (NOP) standards, said the spokesperson.
Cocoa related good agricultural practices and the use of the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) were also covered, as well as the Farmer Field School curricula.
The curricula taught the farmers about intrinsic bean quality and environmental stewardship, in particular relating to the application and storage of approved crop protection products, said the spokesperson.
According to ADM, the certification will help the Nigerian cocoa farmers to produce a better quality bean at a higher volume and lower cost.
“This also enables them to negotiate a greater price for a better product and to improve their standard of living,” said the firm.
“As a further incentive, farmers who work with UTZ Certified in the global marketplace also receive a premium for their crop,” said ADM.
Organisations, including ADM, have established sustainable programmes that support the production of sustainable cocoa in countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.
Last month, leading industrial supplier Barry Callebaut bought the majority of Ghana’s first UTZ certified cocoa shipment, and in February 2011 Cargill received its first delivery of UTZ Certified beans from Vietnam.