Barry Callebaut builds options for sustainable cocoa

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cocoa Sustainability Barry callebaut

Efforts this month under the sustainability mantle by leading pod-to-pallet cocoa player Barry Callebaut include a 250,000 tree-planting project in Tanzania, and a tripling of grindings in Ivory Coast.

From the International Cocoa Organisation's (ICCO) roundtable early this year to the Mars cocoa symposium this week in Ghana, sustainability is clearly high on the chocolate industry agenda.

Indeed, sustainability for the food industry as a whole is metamorphosising from a philosophy or a notion, to a strict set of rules with efforts from the farm to fork to implement structures that pay heed to the environment, social equality and economic circumstances.

In the case of cocoa, long harpooned by critics for its sustainability record, wide ranging initiatives have kicked-off around the globe, including the ICCO's roundtable that gathered stakeholders together early this year to hammer out priority areas for action in relation to sustainability.

Out of the meeting sprang the Accra agenda that underlies three principles, or 'three pillars of sustainable development' – environmental, economic and social – for the cocoa industry to work towards.

At a real grass roots stage, members of varying working groups are now aiming to produce papers on sustainability and certification initiatives; best practices in the cocoa value chain; the concept of traceability and tracking; social issues on labour and a draft outline of principals before next year's roundtable meeting.

In parallel to industry-wide moves are initiatives undertaken by cocoa processors, such as Barry Callebaut. This month the swiss-based firm, one of the world's leading cocoa processors, launched a tree-planting project for organic smallholders in Tanzania, with the exporter of certified organic cocoa Biolands.

Under this latest initiative, Biolands and Barry Callebaut launched a tree-planting project with 250,000 cocoa seedlings grown in over 100 tree nurseries in various villages of the Mbeya region, in south-west Tanzania.

By March 2009, the saplings will be planted out "in order to rejuvenate the existing cocoa plantations." ​In addition, the initiative will see the additional planting of 10,000 crop and shade trees to boost biodiversity and yield.

"Our efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility start at the very beginning of the value chain, namely with the cocoa growers, in order to find ways to achieve greater sustainability in the complex and fragmented chain that extends from cocoa cultivation to the end-product," ​says Patrick De Maeseneire, CEO of Barry Callebaut.

Neither Biolands nor Barry Callebaut own any cocoa plantations "nor plan to buy any​," states the swiss firm. According to Barry Callebaut, Biolands has been selling its entire harvest to the swiss firm since 2000. In April 2008, Barry Callebaut acquired a 49 per cent stake in Biolands.

Cocoa grindings triple

Turning to grindings, Barry Callebaut has upped its cocoa-processing capacity in San Pedro, in the west coast of Ivory Coast, tripling the annual processing capacity to 105,000 tonnes and creating 75 jobs in the factory, the firm said this week as well as "several hundred seasonal jobs in the bean-sorting and cleaning facility."

Following a €30 million investment, the processor inaugurated the new production lines at its existing ISO9001-certified cocoa factory at its subsidiary SACO, claiming at the same time that the move "underlines the strategy of Barry Callebaut to engage increasingly in direct purchasing of cocoa in the countries of origin rather than over the commodity exchanges, and to process a part of the cocoa in these countries."

While Ivory Coast produces the lion's share – 37 per cent – of the world's cocoa use, producing 1.2-1.4 million tonnes of beans a year, in the 2007-08 season, the country processed just a slice of this figure – 360,000 tonnes – according to the ICCO.

By comparison, further data from the ICCO shows the world's top cocoa processor, the Netherlands, is projected to grind about 460,000 tonnes of beans in 2007/08, followed by Germany with 405,000 tonnes and the United States with 395,000.

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