UTZ Certified has been working with industry players and NGOs over the past two years to ensure a certification and traceability scheme for sustainably produced cocoa that allows producers to improve business practices and meet market expectations and brands to show commitment to sustainability.
Daan de Vries, UTZ Certified programme manager, told ConfectioneryNews.com that it is critical that companies such as Barry Callebaut are involved as they are part of the process and can help ensure the programme meets the needs of both producers and markets.
“More than 90 per cent of world cocoa production is produced by smallholder farmers, and as such it is a huge challenge to get all of these audited.
The Cocoa Programme acts as a platform on best practice, where different parts of the cocoa chain such as processors like Barry Callebaut, Mars and Nestle can exchange ideas on a non-competitive basis on how to implement the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct for Cocoa effectively,” he said.
The Code of Conduct, launched earlier this year, establishes economic, environmental and social standards that have to be met in order to qualify for UTZ Certified approval.
The code aims to promote improved farming practices leading to improvements in the quality and yield of cocoa beans, better income for farmers and enhanced sustainability in the supply chain.
It sets out standards on food and farm safety, the safe and efficient use of fertilisers, good labour practices, safe and healthy production practices, protection of natural resources and biodiversity and long-term productivity.
Steven Retzlaff, president global sourcing & cocoa at Barry Callebaut, said that ever growing demands from its customer base and consumers for responsibly produced ingredients sourced through a transparent supply chain prompted its participation in the UTZ certification steering group.
“Our shared aim is to help farmers to grow cocoa in a manner that is sustainable and that safeguards the environment," he added.
In August, two farmer co-operatives in the Ivory Coast were the first to be audited and to receive independent certification, and a audit is currently underway at a co-operative in Ghana, according to de Vries.
West Africa is the source of 70 per cent of the world's cocoa supply, with the Ivory Coast the world’s largest cocoa producer, including 800,000 small-scale farmers.
The Cocoa Programme is also being extended to cocoa producing countries in Latin America such as Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, added de Vries.
Mars Inc, one of the founding members, recently announced that they will source 100 per cent of its cocoa from certified sources by 2020, including UTZ Certified.