Chocolate industry under the spotlight (Oct 2011)
Updates and Sector News
By Ekobai Contributor, Fairtrade Market
The last few weeks have seen a raft of articles on the chocolate trade, from the perspective of climate change, slave labour and the role of fair trade standards in bringing sustainability to the chocolate industry. Below is a round-up of these different areas of concern:
Cocoa and climate change
West Africa produces roughly two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, chiefly from Côte D’Ivoire followed by Ghana. A new report from International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) illustrates that with average temperatures predicted to increase in the region by more than 1C by 2030 and 2C by 2050, many of the existing cocoa-growing areas will become significantly less suitable.
At the same time demand for cocoa is rising exponentially and high prices are set to get higher still as the gulf between demand and supply widens. Producers scrabbling to reap the benefits of higher prices may use damaging and unsustainable agricultural practices to increase yields in the short term. This could lead to long-term damage that in turn accelerates climate change and renders more areas off limits for cocoa production. This will have a devastating effect on the lives of smallholders in West Africa, the majority of who are reliant on single crop farming.
Cocoa and slave labour
September 2011 saw the 10-year anniversary of the Harkin-Engel Cocoa Protocol, an agreement by the largest chocolate companies to eliminate unacceptable child labour practices in the growing and harvesting of West African cocoa.
The anniversary was marred however by a report from the CNN Freedom Project which found that child labour is still commonplace in Côte D’Ivoire in particular. The US State Department estimates more than 100,000 children are involved in the worst forms of child labour on cocoa farms throughout Côte D’Ivoire. Some are the children of cocoa farmers but many others are reportedly smuggled into the country from Mali and Burkina Faso to work on cocoa plantations (source: International Labor Rights Forum).
Fair trade, cocoa and sustainability
Addressing climate change
The fairtrade movement has recognised that climate change and food security are the biggest challenges currently facing smallholders. Already climate change is effecting yields in the global south and a number of pilot climate adaptation schemes are underway – with an emphasis reafforestation and promoting biodiversity. However, scaling-up these pilots is an issue and significantly more funding, from big business rather than the charity sector is required.
As part of its continuous review of its standards the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation, in conjunction with its member organisations, will be looking at ways it can evolve its environmental standards to meet the challenges of climate change.
While fairtrade is still a relatively small part of the overall cocoa market its positive impact should not be underestimated - as brand recognition and fairtrade sales continue to grow.
In positive news Mars has recently announced that its Maltesers brand will carry the Fairtrade logo for products sold in the UK and Ireland, joining Nestle’s KitKat and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Key to further growth is getting US and global brands to follow suit.
Addressing slave labour
It is often stated that the simplest solution to the labour problems in the cocoa industry is to ensure that farmers make enough money to pay their workers a decent wage. Fairtrade certified cocoa comes from farms where workers are paid a price for their crop that should allow them to pay their workers fairly, and ensure that children in those communities are able to go to school. Fairtrade inspections are conducted to ensure that there is no forced labour on these farms – however, with limited resources there is only so much policing fairtrade organisations can do.
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