Emergency relief

Cocoa and chocolate firms must act to stop Ebola spread, says Transmar Group

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Transmar Group urges cocoa & choc industry donations to contain Ebola, a virus that has killed over 3,400 people in West Africa. Photo credit: European Commission
Transmar Group urges cocoa & choc industry donations to contain Ebola, a virus that has killed over 3,400 people in West Africa. Photo credit: European Commission

Related tags West africa Sierra leone Nigeria Cocoa

Cocoa Ingredients supplier Transmar has called on cocoa and chocolate companies to make a donation to the Red Cross or Caritas to combat the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

The Transmar Group made a $100,000 donation to NGO Caritas to support Ebola relief efforts in the region. The pledge was the first made through the World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) Cocoa Industry Response to Ebola, which allocates funds to either Red Cross International or Caritas International.

Collective action

“This is a crisis that has tragic human consequences and for the countries in general,“ ​Charlotte Berghof, sustainability & stakeholder relations director at Transmar subsidiary  Euromar Commodities told ConfectioneryNews.

“There are certain times when industry members should unite when there are extraordinary circumstances and disregard the competition. They have to try to join forces to have a bigger impact.”

Close ties to West Africa

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been worst hit by the Ebola outbreak. The countries produce a very small percentage of the world’s cocoa. The largest producing nation Côte D'Ivoire shares land borders with Liberia and Guinea, but has yet to report a case of Ebola.

2014 Ebola Outbreak

ebola2 european commission

 - Total case count: 7,470
 - Total deaths: 3,431
 - Fatality rate: 46%
 - Main affected countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea
 - Reported cases (from travel) – Nigeria, Senegal, US and Spain 

Source: CDC

“There are still very close ties to other West African countries producing cocoa. It’s relevant to donate to an initiative so it does not get more widespread. We are encouraging people to donate $10,000 to $100,000,”​ said Berghof.

Transmar contacted the WCF to begin the Cocoa Industry Response to Ebola initiative. An email was sent yesterday to WCF members and the WCF are expected to announce how much has been raised at its meeting in Copenhagen​ next week.

Ebola impact on cocoa prices

Bloomberg​ reported on Monday that cocoa prices rose to the highest since 2011 over concerns the Ebola virus may harm cocoa shipments.

The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) daily price for cocoa stood at $3,094 per MT yesterday. The average monthly price for September and August was over $3,200 per MT and the monthly averages have been above $3,000 per MT since March. But prices are still far higher than a year ago. See HERE​ for more info.

 “The recent rise and subsequent fall of cocoa prices is in part a result of fear about the Ebola virus,”​ said Euromar Commodities CEO Peter B. Johnson. “Extreme volatility of cocoa prices is challenging for all commercial participants in the chocolate/cocoa supply chain, from farmers to processors to merchants to confectioners.”

But he said cocoa producing nations suffered the most as the virus impacted investment in cocoa farming developments.

Some business disruption

The virus has already caused some business disruption.

Tranmar had been helping to certify a cooperative in Sierra Leone, but the project is now on hold and could take up to a year to resume.

Barry Callebaut’s Biolands subsidiary in Sierra Leone has also been closed since July 11. The business works with a cooperative made up of 24,600 farmers who produce 1,700 MT of certified cocoa beans a year.

In August, Barry Callebaut also cancelled a managers' meeting​ in Côte D'Ivoire over fear of the virus. Laurent Pipitone of the ICCO recently told us​ that reluctance to record information in remote areas in West Africa could affect cocoa projections, but there was no reason to be alarmist.

Money still flows

William Reed and Ebola relief efforts

ConfectioneryNews' parent company William Reed Business Media SAS has assembled a marathon team to raise money for GlobalGiving to support Ebola relief efforts. Please see HERE​ to donate.

The virus is not yet eating in to the cocoa industry’s profits, according to Johnson.

“Ebola has had little financial impact on the global cocoa industry thus far.  The cocoa crop is flowing out of all West African countries unimpeded, despite the extra risk associated with collecting cocoa in the interior of the cocoa growing regions.”

But he said the virus had taken a significant human toll in small but growing cocoa producing countries.

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