The Cocoa Barometer report shows few improvements in cocoa industry

17 Dec 2020

Despite 20 years of rhetoric from companies promising to undertake initiatives that will increase the standard of living for farmers in cocoa-producing countries as well as mitigate the environmental impacts associated with cocoa production in regions that are dependent on the crop, cocoa farming communities are still battling the effects of poverty, child labor and deforestation, according to the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report from The VOICE Network.

“The 2020 Cocoa Barometer report provides stark details of how little positive impact current and past interventions are having for the farmers at the beginning of the supply chain,” said Antonie Fountain, Cocoa Barometer co-author. This finding builds on previous years’ reports that showed governments and companies are nowhere near their voluntary commitments to reduce child labor, deforestation and poverty levels.

The Cocoa Barometer report shows few improvements in cocoa industry
Image via Pablo Merchán Monteson Unsplash

This report follows on the heels of several studies led by Mondelez International revealing a $10 billion income gap for cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. This income gap persists despite global production of cocoa doubling with the majority of the exported crop originating from four West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria). During the past three decades, production in West Africa rose from 1.37 million tons to 3.47 million tons.

While cocoa production has increased dramatically, it has harmed the price for the commodity as the excess production has propelled prices downward. This new report points out this downward price pressure has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has driven down the demand for cocoa is down and further reduced price. The poverty engendered by cocoa production has resulted in a concentration of bulk cocoa production in West African countries where labor will work under a model that stresses high yields of cocoa, meaning poverty for farmers and excessive profit for chocolate manufacturers.

Weak rural infrastructure, a lack of transparency and accountability and persistent poverty has led to extensive deforestation, child labor and other human and labor rights transgressions in these countries. However, although the report said there has been little measurable progress, individual companies are making strides. Barry Callebaut announced last year that fifty-one percent of its raw ingredients are now sustainably sourced. In 2018, that figure hovered at 44%. Still, other major producers, including Nestlé, Lindt, Mars, Mondelez and Cargill are continuing to work toward their objectives of more transparency, environmentally-friendly practices and alleviating social issues associated with cocoa farming.

To combat this ongoing struggle to improve conditions in cocoa farming regions, the report made three recommendations: Instate regulation that regulates companies, rather than penalizing the farmer, create effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries and deliver on a fair price for farmers.

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