Ivorian cocoa farmers earn less than $1 a day, finds Barry Callebaut-backed study

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Less than $1 a day: Ivorian cocoa farmers far below extreme poverty threshold
Less than $1 a day: Ivorian cocoa farmers far below extreme poverty threshold

Related tags Cocoa farmers Poverty Cocoa

Cocoa farmers in the top producing country Côte D’Ivoire earn around 91 US cents (CFA 568) per day, according to a study by Barry Callebaut and the French Development Agency (AFD).

This is less than half of the World Bank’s extreme poverty line for Côte D’Ivoire ($2.40).

Barry Callebaut surveyed more than 700 cocoa growers in the country in 2013-2014 to obtain the results.​ 

Cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire

cocoa hands callebaut

​World’s biggest cocoa producer, accounting for 42% of world cocoa production in 2014/15.

- Ivorian cocoa production has grown from 565,000 metric tons (MT) in 1984 to 1.5m MT annually today.

- Cocoa makes up 20% of the country’s GDP.

[Source: Barry Callebaut/AFD study]

Far under the poverty line even with sustainability projects

“…This report shows that farmers, even with the benefit from sustainable projects, such as labels or private sector initiatives, are still living far under the poverty line…,”​ concludes the study.

The research estimates there are 700,000 cocoa growers in Côte D’Ivoire with 5m people dependent on the crop.

It says yields are low (435 kg/ha), farms are small (4.87 ha) and old (24 years old), while most have at least one disease, typically stem borer, swollen shoots virus (CSSV) and mirid bugs.

Lasting impact on childrens’ lives

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Antonie Fountain, managing director of the VOICE Network, said: "It confirms something we've been saying for a very long time. Cocoa farmers are very dependent on cocoa and they are in really desperate poverty."

He claimed that further unpublished research by the industry has found a large percentage of cocoa farmers only have enough income to feed their families one meal a day. 

"It means children aren't being fed enough, which can stunt the growth and development of their brains that would affect them for the rest of their lives.”

Study recommendations

The Barry-Callebaut study recommended increasing yields and replanting old farms to ensure they are economically viable.

It said inefficient use of fertilizer and lack of finance access for replanting are the main barriers to yield improvement.

The study added the “main reason for not adopting good agricultural practices is not the lack of trust, but the lack of means”.

It recommended improving the economic profitability of cocoa farms through intercropping as cocoa is often the primary source of cash income.

Organized sector

Of the 700 farmers surveyed, almost 200 were part of a certified cooperative. All of those interviewed were part of a cooperative or organized group most of which have been reached by either Barry Callebaut’s Quality Partner Program (QPP) or another sustainability initiative. The World Cocoa Farmers organization estimates around 80% of cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers that are not part of organized groups or cooperatives – many of whom have been untouched by sustainability programs.

Simplest thing is to pay more: VOICE Network

Fountain said industry efforts are currently focussed on productivity – ​“basically making a farmer grow more cocoa per hectare”.

”But that is not a guarantee that his income will go up,” ​he said.

“Firstly because it costs more money to grow more cocoa and secondly because in the last six months we've seen a decrease in the price of cocoa of about 30-40%, which will be transferred to the farmer quite soon."

Daily cocoa prices averaged $2,288 per ton in January, according to the ICCO's average of the three futures trading markets. This is the lowest level since March 2013.

Fountain said the price impact will soon makes things worse for farmers.

"The simplest thing a company can do is to pay farmers more. It's not rocket science."

"…But it's not just price - we need to keep going with productivity increases and crop diversification, but we need to see much better access to credit and land tenure security for cocoa farmers.”

Barry Callebaut’s approach

Barry Callebaut unveiled its ‘Forever Chocolate’​ sustainability strategy in November last year.

forever choc
Photo: Barry Callebaut

Under the initiative, it pledges to bring 500,000 cocoa farmers out of extreme poverty, to eradicate child labor in its supply chain and to source fully sustainable cocoa by 2025.

Fountain praised Barry Callebaut for trying to eliminate poverty and said it should be a "no brainer"​ for all multinationals to have zero tolerance to structural poverty in their supply chains.

Barry Callebaut processes around 23% of the global cocoa crop. It sourced around 23% of its cocoa under its definition of sustainability in 2015/16.

Asked if the company had historically been complicit in perpetuating poverty among Ivorian cocoa farmers, Christiaan Prins, head of external affairs at Barry Callebaut, told ConfectioneryNews the company has had a "long standing commitment to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. 

“Low productivity as a result of poor agricultural practices, nutrient depleted soil and aging cocoa trees is keeping many farmers in a state of poverty,” ​he said.

“For example, through our direct sourcing and farm services organization Biolands, as well as through our interaction with farmer cooperatives in origin countries, we have invested and engaged in productivity and community development for the past decade,” ​said Prins.

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