Switzerland-headquartered Barry Callebaut is collaborating with its customer Unilever – manufacturer of Cornetto, Magnum, Carte d’Or, and Wall’s – to deliver soap to cocoa farming communities in Côte d’Ivoire.
Unilever is covering the cost of the 10,000-strong soap donation, whereas cocoa producer Barry Callebaut is managing its distribution.
The supplier has also committed to distributing official World Health Organization (WHO) posters with COVID-19 protective instructions for farmer groups and is supporting government dissemination of evolving and urgent information to remote communities.
COVID-19 a risk for cocoa-producing nations
The collaboration comes after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that frequent hand washing with soap and water is an important protective measure against the spread of COVID-19.
This is, however, challenging in rural communities – commonplace in the cocoa producing regions of West Africa.
Côte d’Ivoire produces and exports the most cocoa beans used in the manufacture of chocolate in the world. According to 2017 figures, the nation produces 1.8 million tonnes per year.
It has been suggested that this healthy cocoa supply may well be at risk of disruption if the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread through West Africa. As it stands, Côte d’Ivoire has reported 1,432 cases and 17 deaths.
Market analyst Andrew Hecht, an expert in commodity trading, has expressed fears that a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in West Africa could be devastating on a human level. This, in turn, could carry a potential risk of falling cocoa output.
And in an interview with FoodNavigator in March, the UN World Food Programme’s Acting Director John Crisci revealed his greatest fear amid the COVID-19 crisis was for Africa.
“We’re doing a lot for Africa in our contingency planning. Europe is alarming, but Europe has the facilities, infrastructure, and medical systems in place.
“There is good awareness [in Europe], so it slows down the spread. Whereas in Africa, it can go like wildfire.”