In the wake of its first partnership meeting earlier this month, Sako Warren, ICCFO’s secretary general told ConfectioneryNews that while cocoa and chocolate industry sustainability initiatives had a positive impact, they covered just 10% of global cocoa farmers and tended to be in easy-to-reach areas near cities.
“You can’t say you’re sustainable when you’re not reaching the majority,“ he said.
The secretary general said it took almost 20 years to reach 10% of global cocoa farmers through sustainability projects.
“We may need another 50 years to reach 90% unless there is a change,” he said.
ICCFO’s 600,000 cocoa farmer members come from across producing countries such as Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Cameroon and Venezuela.
ICCFO: Let’s talk price
The World Cocoa Foundation – whose members include Hershey, Mars and Ferrero –recently said it would spend $500m on cocoa sustainability projects in the next few years through joint efforts such as CocoaAction. It cited the figure after Tulane University found 2.03m children were engaged in hazardous work – a proxy for the worst forms of child labor – in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana during the 2013/14 harvest season, up 18% from the 2008/09 season.
“When you look at how much money has been pumped in the result doesn’t match the expenditure,” said Warren.
“The failure of sustainable cocoa is a result of the price. Child labor is caused by a failure to address the payment system of cocoa,” he continued. “There’s a huge gap between the producers and the industry – that was the main focus of this meeting.”
The cocoa farmer’s organization hopes to bridge the wealth gap between cocoa farmers – many of whom earn under $1.25 a day and chocolate industry executives, who can earn as much as $16m a year – more than many companies’ annual expenditure on cocoa sustainability.
A seat at the table
Warren urged the chocolate industry to engage cocoa farmers in decision making on commodity buying and acknowledge that the current cocoa price ranges left many cocoa farmers living in extreme poverty, leading them to turn to unlawful child labor, human trafficking and labor rights abuses.
He added: “If farmers are more involved we have a more chances of meeting this 2020 focus.”
Mars, Hershey and Ferrero have committed to sourcing 100% certified cocoa (Fairtrade, UTZ & others) by 2020, while Nestlé and Mondelēz are ramping up their own sustainability programs albeit without set deadlines.
ICCFO questions certification
Warren alleged certification was failing many farmers. He said farmers in remote areas waited long periods to become certified and often had to pay their own way.
He said middlemen sometimes sponsored farmers to become certified, but signed exclusivity contracts to obtain all their cocoa. Warren called it “a form of slavery”.
He urged the chocolate industry to source directly from farmers and cut out the middlemen.
“Dealing directly with farmers automatically raises the income of farmers,” he said.
Global cocoa farmer database
The non-profit organization is working with the University of Waginengen to compile a global database of cocoa farmers. ICCFO said although some companies had NGOs had compiled some data banks, these covered only a fraction of the global supply and were often confidential. He said farmers and industry could truly profit from the data if it was public and kept up to date by farmers themselves.
“We can’t be talking about sustainability if we don’t know how many farmers there are and where they are,” said Warren.
With the benefit of the data set, ICCFO also hopes to run projects with its 600,000 members on gender equality and youth participation. ICCFO has yet to obtain financing from any industry player.
European trade body Caobisco, whose members include Mondelēz, Mars and Nestlé, was present at the ICCFO first partnership meeting in Amsterdam from August 31 to September 1.
Warren said Caobisco has agreed to support cocoa farmers, but had yet to financially back ICCFO’s projects, which include compiling a global database of cocoa farmers.
“The most important thing for the entire sector is we find a way to cooperate to build together a strong and transparent cocoa sector where all actors have their share,” said Warren.