2012 Cocoa Barometer Calls the Industry to Action on Cocoa Sustainability

The Cocoa Barometer 2012 is out and it provides yet another snap shot into the urgency we must have as a sector to establish sustainable cocoa as the standard.  The barometer is a joint initiative by several NGOs, and it provides an overview of the current sustainability efforts within the industry.  This year’s barometer looked at initiatives in West Africa.

The barometer identifies some of the main challenges in countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana – namely, absolute poverty, poor working conditions, and the decline of the farmer population.  These are challenges that we are all too aware of.  We agree the issue is broader than just productivity but we also believe that better productivity will give farmers and their families a stronger economic foundation and help to address these social conditions.  Therefore, we have designed our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative to put farmers first and ensuring that their incomes and quality of life can improve.

The good news is that the report says that there has been a significant rise in certified sustainable cocoa production.  According to the barometer, “production of certified cocoa increased fourfold between 2009 and 2011… Additionally, production of certified cocoa beans was significantly higher than the sale of certified cocoa, with more than a third of the produce eventually not sold as certified.”

The document highlights the efforts across industry to commit to certified-sustainable cocoa, including mentioning Mars Chocolate’s status as the first manufacturer to commit to purchasing 100% of our cocoa supply from certified sustainable sources.  Unfortunately, it did not mention the breadth and scope of our efforts in cocoa sustainability, especially in Cote d’Ivoire, where our Vision for Change program is providing training and agricultural material to thousands of farmers to help them increase their yield.  We strongly believe that our three-pronged effort – increased cocoa science research, greater technology transfer to farmers, and enhanced certification – will help address the economic and social challenges many growers in West Africa face.

The barometer also believes that there are a broad set of challenges that lie ahead for the industry.  One solution to those challenges recommended by the authors of the report? More coordination among sector stakeholders.  As stated in the document, “it would be beneficial for collective and pre-competitive sector-wide approaches to be implemented.”  We could not agree more with this statement, which is why we’ve made sure to build into the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative a significant pre-competitive agenda.  The document calls for these changes to take place in only two years.  The issues are complex and 10 years is a realistic timeframe. While the changes needed will take some time, we are aware of the urgency and are hopeful that a game plan for sector-wide change will be in place within two years.

The 2012 Cocoa Barometer concludes by saying, “business as usual is not going to solve the crisis that the cocoa sector is in. Significant changes must happen, and they need to start happening soon. This Barometer is a call for action, specifically on the issues that are not receiving sufficient attention. Though some steps in this direction are already being taken, we must go ‘Beyond Productivity’, and embrace a holistic approach to sustainable cocoa.”

We issued our own call to action for greater cooperation within the industry earlier this year.  We believe that the best approach to cocoa sustainability is to partner with our industry peers, governments, certification organizations and NGOs for the common good and we are advocating for a sector-wide effort to achieve the results we all want to see.  We are greatly encouraged by the response we’ve received from across the sector and we expect we’ll see even more progress in the next several months.

You can read the 2012 Cocoa Barometer by clicking here.

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