Cocoa Sustainability

West African cocoa farmers yet to earn a living income despite sales growth of Fairtrade certified cocoa beans

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Cocoa beans have seen the highest growth in sales during 2016-2017. Pic: gbhchocolatier
Cocoa beans have seen the highest growth in sales during 2016-2017. Pic: gbhchocolatier

Related tags Fairtrade

Fairtrade International’s cocoa beans have seen the highest growth in sales during 2016-2017 compared to its other certified goods, including coffee, sugar and tea. However, most West African cocoa farmers still do not earn a living income.

According to the Fairtrade labeling organization’s latest annual report​, Fairtrade-certified cocoa saw a 57% increase in sales during the period, with most of these sales coming from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The volume of certified cocoa reached 214,662 metric tons, with 85% coming from conventional beans and the rest from the organic variety.

‘The large jump in sales reflects the commitment of confectionery companies, chocolate brands and retailers to source more of their cocoa volumes on Fairtrade terms,’​ said Fairtrade International.

‘Fairtrade is the only sustainable certification scheme that provides cocoa cooperatives with a guaranteed minimum price as well as Fairtrade premium of €200 ($230) per metric ton of cocoa sold.’

Certified farmers’ salaries significantly below living income

According to an earlier Fairtrade International’s survey​, published in April, 2018, that covered 3,202 of its certified farmers, the average household income in the West African nation was $2,707 per year, with 74% of it stemming from the profit on cocoa.

Although the number is above the extreme poverty line of $2276 per year, it is still significantly below the living income of $7318 per year.

The survey indicated 42% of Fairtrade cocoa farmers lived above the extreme poverty line, which is $1.90 per person per day, and 23% above the poverty line, which is set at $3.10 per person per day.

Only 12% of cocoa households earned a living income, it added.

Fairtrade International also noted the extreme poverty line, adjusted with the purchasing power parity rate for Cote d’lvoire, is $0.78 per person per day, while the poverty line is $1.27, amounting to $3,713 per year for a cocoa farming household.

Living income strategy

Although many of the certified cocoa farmers are still living below the poverty line, they are expected to earn more this coming year.

Fairtrade International’s global CEO, Darío Soto Abril, said the organization is updating its minimum price and premium for cocoa, and has developed a Fairtrade “Living Income Strategy.

“We are also engaging with companies, governments and NGOs to press toward with programs that will test out a holistic living income roadmap, including a ‘living income reference price’ that should enable cocoa farmers to achieve a living income given certain parameters of productivity and farm size,” ​he added.

Fairtrade International’s director of external relations, Gill Tudor, said the living income strategy work is moving fast, and the organization has more updates to announce in late November this year.

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