Sustainability in cocoa cultivation is increasing

By
Sunday, 04 April, 2010



Socio-ethically responsible behaviour in relation to the procurement of raw ingredients is playing an increasingly decisive role in the cocoa and chocolate industry.

These days, consumer demands for fair trade and sustainably cultivated cocoa are having an impact, as are confectionery companies’ commitment to corporate social responsibility. And then, of course, there are also the current negotiation rounds and discussions on sustainability among the world’s associations and institutions, that are bringing to light the consequences of exploitative cultivation methods for the entire value chain.

The supply chain for cocoa is very complex because over 90% of all beans originate from approximately three million small farming families, whose whole existence relies on cocoa production. In this context, the BDSI’s (Association of the German Confectionery Industry) statement at the end of September 2009 was very encouraging. It covered the successes achieved regarding sustainable cocoa cultivation and the implementation of socio-ethical goals in the affected regions (West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Nicaragua).

For years the BDSI has worked together with German and international organisations in the cocoa and chocolate industry. The aim is to produce all products from raw ingredients, which have been cultivated, harvested and traded in a fair manner and without exploitation.

The latest evidence of this commitment on a global scale is provided by the second Round Table for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy, which was held by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) in Port of Spain/Trinidad and Tobago in March 2009. Around 300 participants from 29 countries, including representatives from the most important production countries, governments, the largest processing countries, as well as numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - for instance Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance, Tropical Commodity Coalition, UTZ Certified and Free the Slaves - adopted a 12-point program.

The contents included rules, guidelines and key elements aimed at achieving sustainable cocoa cultivation without exploitive child labour. The consumers’ demand, that cocoa should not be used in chocolate if it has been acquired using exploitive cultivation methods, is supported by the BDSI and has reached the production countries in question. The ICCO will also organise a third round table, which is planned to take place in two years at the invitation of the Dutch government.

German cocoa and chocolate industry

For the German cocoa and chocolate industry, these are important steps along the path to improving the economic situation of all cocoa farmers and their social conditions. In addition, the German cocoa and chocolate industry is also active at the national level through the Foundation of the German Cocoa and Chocolate Industry, which was founded by the BDSI and the Hamburg-based German Cocoa Trade Association.

It supports many different projects that promote the establishment of cooperatives. With a consumption of 421,000 tonnes of cocoa and cocoa products (represented in the equivalent of the net amount of cocoa beans), Germany is one of the world’s largest cocoa processors with 14 companies that process raw cocoa beans. In comparison, a total of 1381 tonnes of cocoa was ground in the countries of the European Union in 2008, according to the European Cocoa Association (ECA). Among the West African countries, including Togo, Nigeria and Ghana, the Ivory Coast is the most important supplier of cocoa for the German cocoa and chocolate industry. In fact, the Ivory Coast accounts for nearly 50% of German cocoa imports. Other major suppliers to the German industry include Ecuador and Papua New Guinea.

The many activities and initiatives of the BDSI’s member companies clearly show how seriously the cocoa processors and chocolate producers are taking the topic of social responsibility and sustainability. For instance, increasing numbers of companies are expanding their product ranges to include ‘organic’ or ‘FairTrade’ certified products. In many cases, this involves employing measures that affect cocoa-producing regions around the world. Joint projects with NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance or UTZ are proof that corporate social responsibility in the cocoa and chocolate producing industry is no longer an exotic idea, but is instead already having an impact on everyday life in the respective companies.

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