Chocolate companies team up on sustainable cocoa

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Farmer Africa World cocoa foundation

Chocolate companies are uniting with the World Cocoa Foundation
(WCF) to encourage sustainable cocoa production in West Africa and
therefore strengthen the supply chain to Western manufacturers.

The scheme, which aims to help 150,000 farmers and their families over the next five years, is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as industry heavy weights such as Hershey, Cadbury and Mars.

Recent growth in sales of fairly traded cocoa products indicate the impact ethical consumerism has had on the chocolate market and manufacturers are now catching the trend by safeguarding the welfare of cocoa farmers and ensuring environmentally friendly production methods.

WCF president Bill Guyton said: "Industry-supported programmes providing education, information and support for sustainable agriculture already are forming the foundation for stronger more prosperous cocoa farm families and communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas."

As part of the scheme, a network of Farmer Field Schools which were established in 2002 to teach growers about disease, pest control, safer working environments and crop management will be extended.

According to the Foundation, West African farmers have seen incomes increase from 20 to 55 per cent as a direct result of the programme and up to 150,000 farmers are expected to go through the schools between 2007 and 2011.

In a separate initiative, growers will also receive business training to organise them into selling co-operatives and therefore enable them to market crops more effectively.

The involvement of leading confectioners such as Cadbury in the 'Healthy Communities' scheme can be regarded as canny business strategy given the burgeoning popularity of the ethical chocolate market.

In an industry poll carried out by consumer magazine, the Grocer, last week, 71 per cent of retailers said they planned to increase the number of ethically sourced products within the next year.

And, according to the survey, the global ethical food market topped £4bn (€5.9bn) last year.

The global chocolate market is worth $75 billion (€58.5bn) annually.

African cocoa producing countries, which include Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda and Ghana, account for around 80 per cent of global exports of the bean.

The WCF was set up in 2000 and membership is made up of industry bodies such as the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and companies like Cargill and Barry Callebaut.

Through public-private partnerships, the Foundation supports cocoa growing families in improving working conditions, ensuring better production methods and increasing productivity.

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