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Blog: Part of the package of the cocoa industry – Hannah Fuellenkemper (English)

Op 17 staat talkshow ‘Als Warme Broodjes’ in het teken van Cacao. We gaan in gesprek met een activist en chocolademakers. Vandaag zet Hannah chocolade feiten op een rij. YFMer Hannah Fuellenkemper schrijft over voedsel, heeft haar eigen blog en organiseert de sit-down supper club.

A selection of things I knew about the cocoa industry and what I’ve learnt about it. In no particular order:

Cocoa comes from the cocoa tree which grows primarily in West Africa.
Côte d’Ivoire produces about 40% of the world’s supply. Ghana is the second largest producer.

Cocoa beans are harvested from pods.
Cocoa trees take two to four years to grow these pods. A pod can hold up to 50 beans which sit in the fruit’s pulp. They are harvested during two harvest seasons, the seeds extracted with a machete and left to ferment in the sun so that the pulp melts away. The remaining seeds are then transported to a processing facility, fermented and dried before shipping. The Netherlands has the highest monetary amount of cocoa bean imports in the world. You need to process 300 – 600 beans (depending on the product’s cocoa content) to make 1 kg of chocolate.

What we pay for chocolate doesn’t go to the cocoa farmer.
An Ivorian cocoa farmer may earn a ‘profit’ of almost 60% on the selling price of his cocoa, but the small scale of their farms, relatively low yields and the fact they are often self-employed mean that their total annual income remains very low and cannot be considered a net profit. According to the 2015 edition of The Cocoa Barometer, a biennial report on the economics of cocoa, the average farmer in Ghana in the 2013–14 growing season made 84¢ a day, and farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, 50¢. That puts them well below the World Bank’s $1.90 a day standard for extreme poverty. It’s estimated that Ivory Coast and Ghana each have about 800,000 cocoa farmers.

Worldwide demand for cocoa is growing as consumers in India and China can now afford chocolate.
Global demand for chocolate rose 0.6% to a record 7.1 million tons in 2015 pushed by a 5.9% jump consumption in Asia according to Euromoniter International. This figure will grow as more and more people have the disposable income needed to buy relative luxuries such as chocolate, and the chocolate industry is concerned about being able to source enough cocoa for the future. This is for reasons including: urbanisation, diseased trees, decreasing biodiversity and soil degradation, weather changes, lack of farming know-how and ageing trees (cocoa trees reach peak production between the ages of 5 and 25 years but farmers cannot afford to replace trees). A combination of these factors has led to production of only about 4 million tonnes of cocoa beans each year for the past half decade according to the International Cocoa Organisation.

Cocoa trees are suffering from weather changes.
The predicted hotter, drier climate will squeeze the world’s supply of chocolate by limiting the areas where cocoa can be produced in West African countries. In a new study conducted by scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), researchers brought together climate projections with rainfall and temperature data from 751 West African climate stations and showed that parts of the West African cocoa belt, extending from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, are in danger of becoming savanna by 2050 due to a combination of higher temperatures and increased periods of drought. A shifting cocoa growing region would likely trigger new waves of deforestation to clear the way for new cocoa plantations. The researchers believe that 2050 is a generous estimate: “Most of the expected impact for 2050 will actually happen by 2030 already.”

There is a child labour involved in the chocolate industry.
To the tune of 2.1 million children in West Africa.

The chocolate industry makes a lot of money.
The global chocolate market is this year estimated to reach a value of $98.3 billion with the big players in the industry investing in various sustainability programmes that involve boosting the amount of cocoa they pledge to buy from certified farms (note that certification is not the same as sustainable), providing farmers with higher-yielding plants, education and tackling child labour.

Are these working? Due to a lack of independent third-party evaluations and the fact companies generally report only their success stories, it’s difficult to know. What is safe to say is that because child labour, trafficking and dismal working conditions are still so abundant in the industry, such initiatives have not had the impact necessary for a true transformation (as an example, the World Cocoa Foundation has launched CocoaAction, a collaborative strategy of eleven of the largest chocolate and cocoa companies in the world. One of its targets is to train approx. 300,000 farmers by the end of the decade, but this number is only a fraction of the cocoa farmers in West Africa, many of whom are already being reached through current CocoaAction members in their own programmes). As good a start rather than no start may be, voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives by companies alone will not be able to prevent human rights violations and environmental degradation, and much more is required from legislative powers (and consumers!) at both national and at regional levels.

For how much they earned from chocolate sales in 2015 and some of what they have promised to do, click on the chart:


// Lees ook Hannah’s vorige blogs:
blog: In season, on trend.
blog: Do you want meat with that?
blog: On fish.

// Tekst & Beeld: Hannah Fuellenkemper
// YFM nodigt bloggers uit om hun mening te delen op onze website. Dit artikel is de persoonlijke mening van de schrijver. Wil je reageren? Dat kan onder de Facebook post die bij deze blog hoort!

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