About 14 million farmers directly depend on cacao; the livelihood of around 50 million people globally depend on this product. Cacao exports amounted to about $20bn in 2014; almost 2/3 of the cacao output came from two countries alone: Ivory Coast and Ghana, where most cacao farmers live with less than $1/day. By contrast, the chocolate industry is dominated by 9 grinders/processors and 6 chocolate manufacturers and was worth $150bn. Although the 2014 cacao exports represented a 142% increment compared to 2005, the value share of farmers in the supply chain has shrunk by 82% to 2%-6% since the 1980s. While cacao farmers struggle to survive daily, cocoa/chocolate multinationals report “healthy” profits year on year. There is a clear inequity in this industry, as there appears to be, generally, in agriculture related activities. The situation is not as simple as an evident lack of proper practice to adequately remunerate farmers, but the fact that most grinding takes place in developed countries thus a minimal portion of the value in the supply chain is retained at the origin.
How can chocolate be sweet for manufacturers and consumers but extremely bitter for those who actually grow the main component without which we couldn’t indulge ourselves with the delight of an exquisite chocolate bar?
Though the Fairtrade Certification establishes certain parameters for recognizing a “just” price to cacao farmers and brings onto the table the discussion about the critical situation of cacao farmers, its current standards seem rather timid and do not provide a real incentive to those who voluntarily decide to pay farmers above the minimum established under the Fairtrade guidelines. Hence, the need to go beyond the current Fairtrade standards if meaningful changes are to be achieved.
The current value structure in the chocolate industry supply chain is not sustainable, as farmers will unequivocally either opt for growing another type of crop or abandon the land altogether. When will business leaders in the cacao industry adopt a different posture and embrace different practices? When will us, as consumers, be much more questioning about the origin of what we eat and practices applied by each player in the supply chain? Having the Fairtrade seal does not seem to suffice. Perhaps it is about time to start right away such questioning in social media, with our preferred retailers, in our day to day conversations and not wait for the 5 or 10 year “conversion” plans committed by certain manufacturers…
Raw Data Source: Fairtrade International and International Cocoa Organization