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Mars urges action on cocoa to beat shortage

By Rick Pendrous , 13-Jun-2012
Last updated on 13-Jun-2012 at 10:06 GMT2012-06-13T10:06:08Z

Urgent action was necessary to avoid the “bleak situation” of a serious global shortage of cocoa supplies within a decade, Fiona Dawson, president of Mars Chocolate UK, warned yesterday (June 12).

Despite the cocoa industry employing more people around the world than any other, Dawson said there was a world shortage of cocoa. Without concerted action this situation would only get worse, she said.

“The global cocoa sector may suffer a 1Mt shortage by 2020 because of the increasing economic and environmental pressures on cocoa farms,” she warned. “It’s just not sustainable.”

Giving the annual Campden BRI lecture, titled ‘A sustainable future?’, Dawson said more sustainable cocoa supplies were needed to meet growing demand. Demand from the emerging economies of Asia, such as China, was particularly strong.

Côte d'Ivoire

But for this to happen, the incomes and welfare of hard-pressed smallholder cocoa farmers would have to be raised, she added. Dawson cited the particular example of the Côte d'Ivoire, which is the world’s largest cocoa producer, growing more than one-third of total supply.

“Despite its global scale and local significance, the Ivorian cocoa sector is under severe pressure due to persistent poverty and political conflicts,” warned Dawson.

“Unlike rice, or wheat, cocoa is an orphan crop. This means it is regionally important but receives little attention from research networks, despite its significance. Yields have not increased to the same rate as other crops, incomes are low and poor farmers have limited access to new tools for knowledge.”

As a result, the next generation sees less and less reason to farm, added Dawson. “But we know that if the farmers at the start of the supply chain are in trouble, then ultimately so is the whole industry.”

Dawson outlined a number of priorities for action. Chocolate needed to be manufactured both more efficiently and more sustainably, she said.

She called for more collaboration between industry, governments and non-governmental organisations, to improve the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain. Help was particularly needed by small cocoa farmers to raise their use of good agricultural practices, she added.

“We need to invest more in science to improve cocoa varieties, increase yield, improve resistance to pests and diseases, and improve water and energy use,” said Dawson.

Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance

This would require the industry working more closely with farmers so they could adopt more sustainable practices, said Dawson. She also called for greater adoption of certification schemes such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, to ensure best practices were encouraged.

“At Mars we have decided we have to become sustainable in a generation,” said reported. “Put simply, we absolutely buy the science of climate change. We know that we have to operate differently to that of today. Humanity has caused this issue and it will be human ingenuity which needs to solve it.”

Meanwhile, Mars Chocolate in Slough hosted a fact-finding visit by MPs and Peers, designed to promote food and drink manufacturing. For more information, click here .

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