Callebaut: sustainable cocoa farming road "still long"

28 Feb 2017

A new study on cocoa farmers published by the French Development Agency (AFD) and Barry Callebaut on cocoa farmers shows the road to make cocoa a sustainable and high yielding crop is still long.

Callebaut: sustainable cocoa farming road still long

A new study on cocoa farmers published by the French Development Agency (AFD) and Barry Callebaut on cocoa farmers shows the road to make cocoa a sustainable and high yielding crop is still long. It notes that cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire earn approximately €0.86 per day, far below the national poverty level, and that yield improvement on cocoa farms would be a crucial step forward.

The income of €0.86 per day is said to be the direct result of low cocoa yields, on average 435 kg/ha, on already relatively small cocoa farms. On top of that, many of the cocoa trees in Côte d’Ivoire are old and beyond their most fertile age. Plant diseases, such as stem borer, swollen shoots virus (CSSV) and mirid bugs add further to the low productivity.

The study also showed that basic socioeconomic infrastructure such as primary schools, primary health care and drinking water is often not present in cocoa farming communities. Nevertheless, farmers do not envisage giving up this crop. The main reason for not adopting better agricultural practices is not the lack of knowledge, but the lack of means.

The survey was carried out in 2013-2014 on more than 700 cocoa farmers and their plots in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Data and statistics on cocoa farmers’ well-being, yields, access to finance, diseases and agricultural practices are scarce, which is a serious constraint to the efficient design and implementation of programs and actions for better cocoa sustainability,” said Bruno Leclerc, AFD Country Manager in Côte d’Ivoire.

The barriers to yield improvements are said to be the insufficient use of fertilizers, including organic fertilizers due to insufficient financial means and the lack of access to finance. In addition and of particular relevance in Côte d’Ivoire where trees are old and highly affected by diseases, the requirement to replant cocoa trees with the optimal planting material is often postponed due to a lack of knowledge of best management practices, the company continues.

Under its recently launched new sustainability strategy Forever Chocolate, Barry Callebaut notes that it has put forward the goal to lift over 500,000 cocoa farmers out of poverty by 2025.

“The results of this study show that Barry Callebaut’s approach to lifting cocoa farmers out of poverty by focusing on yield improvement is the right approach,” said Nicko Debenham, Head of Sustainability at Barry Callebaut. “Nevertheless, it also underlines the size of the challenge and the necessity to work with governments to create the right socioeconomic infrastructure and access to finance and inputs”.