Low cocoa prices remain a major challenge to the cocoa sector after several promises to address the situation have not materialized, the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report shows.
The report published on Monday, December 1, 2020 by Solidaridad in West Africa, reveals that whilst bad farming practices in the cocoa sector have been addressed, the underlying problems that exacerbate extreme poverty including low cocoa prices, lack of infrastructure, and no transparency and accountability as you move higher in the supply chain remain unsolved.
As a key requirement, the report recommends the need to make the payment of a living income reference price of at least $3.100 in the cocoa season 2021/2022.
The report says after two decades of failed interventions across the cocoa sector, cocoa farming communities are still battling the effects of poverty, child labor, and deforestation.
The 2020 Cocoa Barometer report has, therefore, outlined the necessary steps government and industry should take, together with farmers and civil society organizations, to end deforestation and human rights abuses in cocoa supply chains.
As a biennial review of sustainability in the cocoa sector, 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.
The report notes that after twenty years, the challenges on the ground remain as large as ever. Poverty is still the daily reality for virtually all West African cocoa farmer families, child labor remains rife and old-growth forests continue to be cleared to make way for cocoa production.
“After two decades of voluntary initiatives that do not tackle the root causes, it is time for systemic change in the sector
“All the ingredients are there to make it work, but it is now time to move forward, and put in place ambitious, holistic and mandatory change so that we can finally tackle the poverty, child labor, and deforestation in cocoa”, says Cocoa Barometer co-author Antonie Fountain of the VOICE Network.
The report finds that the last two decades of interventions have failed for three main reasons.
First, efforts have only been voluntary, not mandatory, meaning that across the sector, actors are failing to do what they need to. Within the multitude of government-driven covenants, national multi-stakeholder platforms, and sector-wide collaborations, there are no penalties for non-compliance from companies or governments, nor enforcement to meet targets.
Second, whilst bad farming practice has been addressed, the underlying problems that exacerbate extreme poverty – including low cocoa prices, lack of infrastructure, and no transparency and accountability as you move higher in the supply chain remain unchallenged and unsolved.
Third, efforts to solve complex issues of injustice and unsustainability in the sector have not been inclusive or holistic enough. Instead of inviting farmers and civic society to take a respected seat at the decision-making table, problems have been assessed using a top-down industry-based approach. This serves the interests of industry and government, rather than the producer farmers and their communities.
“We are at the crossroads. Do we continue skirting around the issue of farmers’ wellbeing, or will all stakeholders together radically redesign value distribution and decision making in the cocoa sector? Let’s make space at the table and assure a living income, for both farmers and workers”, says Isaac Gyamfi, managing director for Solidaridad in West Africa.
Sandra Sarkwah, Coordinator for the Ghana Civil-Society Cocoa Platform (GCCP), who supports the publication said;
“Efforts of sector players to change the story of farmers keep on beating about the bush when evidence presents to us the plight of farmers, thus, low income from their hard work is a major threat to cocoa sustainability.
“Processors, chocolate manufacturing companies, and retailers who earn a large chunk from the value chain must be fair to farmers by paying a living income and this must reach the farmer.
“This will require the efforts of various actors, including civil society organizations in both producing and consuming countries, as well as strong farmer cooperatives to demand transparency and accountability for effective delivery of pricing policies for better farm gate prices for farmers”.
The report makes three key recommendations: Regulation that changes the system, rather than penalizing the farmers; Effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries; and Deliver on a fair price for farmers.
The 2020 Cocoa Barometer report provides an overview of the current sustainability developments in the cocoa sector and highlights critical issues that are not receiving sufficient attention at present. It is an endeavor to stimulate and enable stakeholders to communicate and discuss these critical issues.