Ivory Coast and Ghana bend the chocolate makers

At the time of the end of the year holidays when chocolate consumption is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, the news should delight the some 3 million small producers of cocoa beans in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

These two African countries, which represent 60% of world production – more than 40% for Côte d’Ivoire alone – obtained, on Saturday December 5, two major players in this market, the American chocolate makers Hershey and Mars , that they pay a special premium, called “decent income differential” (DRD), amounting to $ 400 (€ 330) per tonne, in addition to the market price.

Unbalanced trade

An amount that will place a tonne of cocoa around $ 2,600 (€ 2,139), or roughly the price of fair trade cocoa – which should make it possible to better remunerate planters, more than half of whom live below the poverty line of 757 CFA francs (around € 10) per day.

“This DRD premium will somewhat restore the balance of a fundamentally unbalanced trade, because ‘brown gold’ mainly brings back industrialists in Western countries who process it, but very little to those who cultivate it”, underlines Frédéric Amiel, former researcher from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (Iddri) who joined the NGO Les Amis de la Terre. According to a World Bank study, of the 100 billion dollars in turnover generated worldwide each year, only six billion goes to growers.

Problems come out from under the rug

To bend the chocolate makers Hershey and Mars, the Conseil du café-cacao (CCC) de Côte d’Ivoire and the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), the two national regulatory authorities of the sector, have threatened to suspend certification programs for two groups. These programs are supposed to ensure that multinationals buy cocoa « durable », respecting production criteria “Ethical”, including the prohibition of child labor and deforestation.

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“These certifications have become an essential argument in the communication of multinationals vis-à-vis Western consumers. That Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have decided to act together to publicly denounce low-bidding actors is an excellent initiative, underlines Blaise Desbordes, Managing Director of Max Havelaar France, a pioneering NGO in the field of fair trade. The other producing countries, particularly in Latin America, will follow the case closely. “

→ DEBATE. Why do African farmers not manage to live on cocoa?

The alliance of the two neighboring countries of West Africa is all the more remarkable as, until recently, in Abidjan or Accra, the authorities tended to place the problems and the criticisms under the carpet so as not to weaken a sector of excellence.

“It was in June 2019 that they launched, to everyone’s surprise, a first offensive, recalls Frédéric Amiel. For three weeks, exports were suspended until, in the absence of the guaranteed price demanded by the two countries, buyers agree to the introduction of the DRD premium which was to come into force this year. “

Concerned small planters

But if all the major chocolate groups – from the American Mondelez (Milka, Côte d’Or, Toblerone) to the Swiss Nestlé via the Italian Ferrero (Nutella) – have accepted the principle, some have, it seems- he, sought to circumvent its application although they deny it. “We recognize the importance and value of DRD in improving the lives of farmers and we are happy to have been able to clarify the situation”, thus made known the Hershey group. “We are the first company to support this mechanism”, added Mars Wrigley.

→ MAINTENANCE. “The fair price of cocoa is a utopia”

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The Belgian Michel Arrion, executive director of the International Cocoa Organization (Icco) based in Abidjan, says he is “Relieved” that a solution has been found which should make it possible to triple the income of producers. “But even with this increase, the majority will remain below the poverty line. The question of the distribution of value remains open ”, he nuances.

Moussa Kané, president of Synap, the main planters union in Côte d’Ivoire, is even more pessimistic: “I learned from the press that the chocolatiers were going to pay more. As a farmer, I say thank you to them. But I wonder: will this money really reach the planters? And when ? “

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The chocolate market in France

– In 2019, nearly 325,458 tonnes of chocolate were sold, a decrease of 2.3% compared to the previous year. Medium and large surfaces make 70% of sales.

– The sector has 115 companies, 90% of which are SMEs, and 30,000 direct jobs, including 16,000 in production.

– Christmas celebrations represent 11% of sales, for 759 million euros. Those of Easter total 4% for 293 million euros.

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