Barry Callebaut’s marketing director, Sofie de Lathouwer, told ConfectioneryNews that the booming car industry in Asia had created a strong demand for rubber, making cocoa farmers consider switching crops.
She said simply matching the commodity prices of palm and rubber would not work due to the culture in West Africa.
'The African culture it’s different from how we live today'
“Very honestly when you know the African culture, it’s different from how we live today. We earn money, we put some aside….They are living really from day to day, they have another attitude – which is perfectly fine,” she told ConfectioneryNews at an industry event.
She said that Barry Callebaut was trying to make cocoa growing more attractive by teaching farmers how to increase productivity and improve quality. "Like composting, for us that seems so normal to do but for them it’s something completely new.”
The Fairtrade view
However, Eileen Maybin, head of media relations for the Fairtrade Foundation, said that the low prices paid to farmers were restrictive.
“Unfortunately, cocoa farmers generally receive a price for their cocoa which does not allow them the possibility of doing anything but living from day to day.”
De Lathouwer said that Barry Callebaut was working through its various sustainability programs to show farmers that they do not have to cut down their cocoa trees to make way for palm and rubber, and that multi cropping may well make better business sense for the growers.
“It is important also for them for having more income because you cannot live only from cocoa cultivation - most of the farms have two cultivations. So that’s important that they’re increasing productivity but also if something is happening with the rubber cultivation that they also have a kind of safety crop so they have enough income for their families because families are around eight to nine people in the Ivory Coast,” she told ConfectioneryNews.
Profits higher for palm and rubber
Senior analyst for food at Euromonitor, Francisco Redruello, said that the recent worries surrounding cocoa production relate to a variety of factors such as old, low-yield trees as well as a shift in producing country manpower towards other more profitable industries.
“Farmers and workers tend to look to rubber and palm oil where profits are higher,” Redruello previously told ConfectioneryNews.
Quality not quantity
De Lathouwer said that Barry Callebaut was concentrating on improving cocoa quality through its sustainability initiative. “On money we do pay more on a quality side because just paying more doesn’t improve the quality and it’s not only with quantity that you will survive in this cocoa shortage.”
She said that paying more for bad quality beans would mean that the company would need to purchase more beans to make the same amount of high quality chocolate, making the shortage problem even worse.
“So if I have good quality beans I just need the normal amount of cocoa beans. If I just pay them more for these beans they will not be motivated to do this extra mile in quality. For Barry Callebaut that’s quite important.”