Regulations needed to stem cocoa sector abuses - report

by Reuters
Tuesday, 1 December 2020 15:25 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A farmer works on a cocoa farm in Bobia, Gagnoa, Ivory Coast, December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/File Photo

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Two decades of voluntary interventions by brands to end farmer poverty have produced much rhetoric but little impact, finds report

By Maytaal Angel

LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Regulations are needed to end poverty, human rights abuses and deforestation in the cocoa sector after two decades of voluntary interventions that have had little to no impact, a major report on cocoa sustainability said on Tuesday.

The Cocoa Barometer, a biennial report published by a global network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade unions, calls on governments of major consuming nations to introduce laws that hold companies accountable for environmental and human rights abuses in their supply chains.

The report also said a fair price for cocoa farmers is crucial, and that cocoa and chocolate companies must find a way to deliver this by, for example, making farmer income a key part of their sustainability schemes.

The schemes use auditors to certify cocoa as ethically sourced, allowing companies to market their chocolate as such and charge a premium for it.

"Twenty years into rhetoric, 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 labour remains rife and old growth forests continue to be cleared to make way for cocoa production," it said.

The report comes after top producers Ivory Coast and Ghana said in a letter they are cancelling cocoa sustainability schemes that U.S.-based chocolate maker Hershey runs in their countries, accusing the company of trying to avoid paying a cocoa premium aimed at combating farmer poverty.

Hershey said in response it is fully participating in the scheme to pay West African farmers a living wage and will continue to do so.

The Barometer also noted some positive trends.

It said there is real opportunity for change as many chocolate companies are themselves asking for due diligence regulations, the European Union is drafting such laws, and Ivory Coast and Ghana have guaranteed farmers a living wage by introducing a cocoa premium.

Due diligence regulations would provide companies with a level playing field, the report said, encouraging them to pay farmers to tackle ethics abuses by addressing their concerns about losing out to competitors who don't source ethically.

According to the report, a living income would equate to at least $3,100 a tonne in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The figure is almost double what the two nations are targeting with their premium which has, since its introduction, caused their sales to slide as some companies have sought cheaper sources of supply.

"Without a living income, cocoa will never be sustainable. When farmers must choose between feeding their family, and not cutting down old growth trees, it is not a choice," the report said.

(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton)

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