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Supply Chain
Living Incomes for Farmers Key to Ensuring Sustainability of Cocoa

New Fairtrade Foundation campaign calls on the UK government and companies to end ‘shameful’ exploitation of cocoa farmers by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cocoa farmers working in tough conditions are struggling on as little as 74p ($.97) per day, well below the world’s extreme poverty line, and yet for around £1.86 per day — the average price of a large bar of chocolate — farmers could live a decent life, according to a new Fairtrade International report launching during Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February –10 March), the highlight of the year for the Fairtrade movement in the UK.

The chocolate industry is worth £4 billion in the UK. Despite this, many cocoa farmers in West Africa — where 60 percent of cocoa is grown — are living in poverty and are unable to pay for essentials such as food, send their children to school or buy medicine if they fall sick. Based on new research carried out by Fairtrade International and the ISEAL Alliance, Craving change in chocolate: How to secure a living income for cocoa farmers argues that living incomes are key to ensuring the future sustainability of cocoa (Note: The key finding of the research estimates a living income to be approximately approx. £1.86 (US$2.50) per person per day in Côte d’Ivoire and approx. £1.60 (US$2.16) per person per day in Ghana).

To achieve this, the price farmers receive for their cocoa must increase — which is why in October 2019, Fairtrade is raising its Minimum Price and Premium. However, only 6 percent of cocoa globally is Fairtrade-certified; therefore, the movement is calling for collective action from the government, industry and consumers.

As Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and Fairtrade Patron, writes in the report’s foreword: “Shameful as it is inexcusable, exploitation and poverty continue to hide under the seductive packaging of our favourite chocolate. All of us have a moral responsibility to act. We all — global citizens, businesses, governments — must do more.”

Communities and businesses across the UK including Waitrose & Partners, The Co-op, Ben & Jerry’s, Divine Chocolate, Mars, Greggs and Starbucks are backing Fairtrade Fortnight — all source Fairtrade cocoa, and by doing so are helping farmers to sell more; and with the new Minimum Price, they will benefit from a 20 percent increase in value.

Fairtrade Foundation’s She Deserves” campaign — which reveals female cocoa farmers carry the greatest burden for the least reward — aims to raise awareness amongst consumers of the challenges facing them. These women work in the fields, look after children, and do all the chores and the lion’s share of labor involved in bringing cocoa crops to market, but have fewer rights than men and rarely own land, thereby getting even less of the profits from their work.

“It is shocking that the women who grow and harvest the cocoa that goes into our treats are barely able to put food on the table nor send their kids to school – the majority of us think the exploitation they suffer is unacceptable,” said Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation. “We can all take action today by supporting this campaign and by putting Fairtrade chocolate in our shopping baskets.

“Everyone is entitled to a decent income; it is a human right,” Gidney continued. “As a country, we’ve signed up to end poverty by 2030, but that won’t happen unless people earn more for the work they do — so we’re calling on governments, businesses and the public to pledge to make living incomes a reality. Whatever happens with Brexit, our leaders must make sure trade deals put poverty reduction first. If that matters to you, please sign our petition.'

The report outlines the problems facing West African farmers, which range from deforestation to child labor. Despite huge investments in sustainability initiatives, the report asserts that industry needs to change the focus, through a detailed set of recommendations:

Fairtrade Foundation calls on the Government to show leadership:

  • Join the Living Income Task Force, a new initiative being created by the German government

  • Make living incomes a priority for UK aid

  • Incorporate living income into Government Business and Human Rights policies for after all a living income is a human right. 

Fairtrade Foundation calls on chocolate companies, traders and supermarkets to:

  • Commit to sourcing their cocoa on Fairtrade terms as a first step.

  • Commit to the goal of ensuring that cocoa farmers receive a living income by 2030.

The report also tells the stories of farmers who have benefitted from Fairtrade. Since joining a Fairtrade co-operative, Rosine Bekoin has seen her own income double and is now inspiring others in her community, leading a Women’s Society which supports other women to use investment on top of cocoa sales.

“Fairtrade Premium encourages us, as women cocoa farmers, to be able to achieve certain things,” Bekoin says. “We know that with Fairtrade there is a Premium waiting for us, and for each woman, you can do what is in your heart.”