Child labor in cocoa sector

Puratos on tackling child labor: ‘We don’t parent cocoa farmers; We get the entire supply chain involved’

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Puratos' Cacao-Trace program was previously installed in Vietnam, where cocoa farmers have seen an income increase. Pic: Puratos
Puratos' Cacao-Trace program was previously installed in Vietnam, where cocoa farmers have seen an income increase. Pic: Puratos
It is not enough for cocoa sustainability programs to tackle child labor by solely focusing on increasing yield and cultivating trees, Puratos has said. Instead, the company’s own sourcing program, Cacao-Trace, deals with the issue by installing a more standardized fermentation process for cocoa farmers to begin with.

Puratos recently launched Cacao-Trace in Papua New Guinea, where it helps standardize the fermentation process among 60 local post-harvest centers, after introducing it to Vietnam, Côte d’Ivoire and the Philippines a few years ago.

The mindset behind the program is “if we can level up the quality from the very beginning, we can have a better quality chocolate at the end,”​ said Laura Remory, product communications manager at Puratos.

She noted cocoa farmers have traditionally fermented beans using techniques they learned from their families. “If they can bring their fresh beans to our post-harvest centers where our experts take over the process, the final products will taste a lot better,”​ said Remory.

“We have an entire R&D team specializing in fermentation because of our long history in bread and sourdough. They are responsible for writing out the guidelines for how cocoa beans should be fermented for the best possible flavors.”

Puratos said it also respects the unique aromas of cocoa beans of different origins, and "mastering the fermentation process allows us to adapt the process to specific taste requirements."

Remory told ConfectioneryNews Cacao-Trace can free up farmers six days or more time so they can participate other income-generating activities instead of fermentation.

Puratos also plans to have Cacao-Trace chocolate coming from all the post-harvest centers in Papua New Guinea certified organic later this summer, and bring Cacao-Trace to Mexico in the near future.

Premium price and chocolate bonus

Remory noted all cocoa farmers working for Puratos start with a premium price. “If they provide us with even higher quality beans, they will get a ‘quality premium price’ on top.

“When we create better chocolates and our customers are willing to pay a high price for them, we will send additional ‘chocolate bonus’ for every kilo we sell right back to our farmers – that usually equates to one or two months of salaries,”​ she said.

“All the money from the chocolate bonus is collected via Cacao-Trace, and we have a nonprofit behind the program – Next Generation Cocoa Foundation – oversee the collection and make sure 100% of that money goes back to the communities,”​ said Remory.

All hands on deck

Remory said the cocoa farmers are important to the ever-increasing demand for chocolate. However, they are still “very fragile” ​at the base level.

“We are glad to see a positive wave of mental switch to sustainability thinking among many chocolate companies,”​ she explained.

However, it is nearly impossible to get the whole cocoa sector out of poverty. “We can only do our best,”​ said Remory.

“We don’t parent cocoa farmers by just giving them a tool; we get the entire supply chain (including chocolate manufacturers and consumers) involved”​ through the sourcing program, she added.

Remory said: “For us, increasing farmers’ income is more of a priority than getting rid of child labor because that’s the root of the issue. We need to get them out of poverty first so they have enough money to send their kids to schools, and women can invest in health care.”

So far, Cacao-Trace has had a positive impact on the farmers’ income in Vietnam and Côte d’Ivoire, she mentioned.

In the meantime, Puratos is also working to eradicate child labor.

According to the company, Cacao-Trace is currently being audited by a third party organization, called Veritas. Once a child labor case is detected, Puratos will immediately terminates the farmer’s membership within its program.

Moving forward, The Next Generation Cocoa Foundation will also release annual reports on Puratos’ cocoa sustainability activities and progress, said Remory.

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