Fairtrade auditing body FLOCERT suspended Peruvian cocoa cooperative COPASA earlier this year, following an audit on August 3, 2017.
It came amid allegations COPASA was benefiting a subsidiary of major cocoa trader Ecom named Cafetalera Amazónica SAC rather than individual farmers members - claims Ecom and the co-op itself firmly reject.
Four cocoa farming groups – including La Asociación Peruana de Productores de Cacao (APPCACAO) – issued a joint letter alleging COPASA was a ghost organization of Cafetalera Amazónica.
Fairtrade standards: Democratic co-ops
Under Fairtrade International rules, only cooperatives democratically overseen by farmer members via free and fair elections with equal voting rights for members can be certified Fairtrade.
Co-ops must comply with the Fairtrade Standard for Small Producer Organizations standards and additional requirements of the Fairtrade Cocoa Standard. FLOCERT recently told us so called ‘fake cooperatives’ are a known risk and it said it does not tolerate such setups.
Ecom: ‘Commercial support should be promoted’
Ecom – a financial backer of the cooperative that helped it achieve certification in June 2016 – strongly refutes suggestions it gives inappropriate support to farmer groups.
Ecom told us in a statement: “Supporting farmers’ organizations is a key process in the development of any cooperative and can improve their chance of surviving.
“We believe that appropriate financial and commercial support should be promoted and not denigrated, and we naturally support any suppliers in their audit and associated processes.”
FLOCERT confirmed COPASA’s Fairtrade suspension, but said reasons why are kept internal.
‘Totally commercial’ relationship
Jhony Gayoso, manager of COPASA, told us the co-op was not a ghost organization.
“We do not understand why our competition and other groups consider COPASA as a ghost organization when our cooperative brings together more than 1,000 cooperative producers, with their own identity, small active producers who face vicissitudes every day to produce quality cocoa. [Spanish translation]”
He said the co-op’s relationship with Cafetalera Amazónica/Ecom is “totally commercial”.
“It is our local strategic buyer, who is clear about our institutional independence, the effort of the producer and his family in general,” said Gayoso.
COPASA: Suspension details confidential to avoid speculation
According to the co-op manager, COPASA paid 75% of the Fairtrade premium to its members and delivered the remaining 25% via social programs when the co-op was certified.
“The reasons for the suspension of our cooperative by Fairtrade are confidential and of exclusive knowledge of our partners and they have decided that this is the way to continue avoiding speculation of third parties or people outside our organization,” said Gayoso.
He said COPASA was committed to Fairtrade and is working to be re-certified.
“…With our mistakes and successes we will continue forward in fair trade along with Fairtrade looking for growth and organizational development and better quality of life for our small cocoa producers,” said Gayoso.
The World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) – a trade body for smallholders and organized groups of cocoa farmers –recently alleged there is a growing number of so-called ‘fake cooperatives’, which are bound to chocolate companies and cocoa traders that provide financial assistance.