* Farmers will pay back future fertilizer deliveries with
* Cocoa industry companies to distribute fertilizer to
By Marcy Nicholson
April 9 Chocolate conglomerates are handing out
20,000 tonnes of special cocoa fertilizer for free to farmers in
Ivory Coast to help boost yields and secure bean supplies in the
world's No. 1 grower.
The shipment is small, but it is the first time chocolate
makers and merchants, including Barry Callebaut,
Cargill and Mars Inc, have gotten together to
jump-start fertilizer use in the impoverished West African
"The idea is that cocoa companies in the future will
pre-finance fertilizer for the farmers and the farmers will pay
back with cocoa beans, which they can, through their increased
yields," said Daan de Wit, spokesman for IDH, the Sustainable
Trade Initiative, a not-for-profit organization based in
"In a few years time the farmers will have enough money to
buy the fertilizer themselves."
Chocolate makers have been trying to secure long-term cocoa
bean supplies to meet rising demand. Production growth has been
hampered by crop disease, poor farming practices and competition
from other crops such as rubber.
Fertilizer is not widely used by rural farmers in Ivory
Coast. The shipment is less than 5 percent of the country's
potential usage. The organization estimates that cocoa farms in
Ivory Coast could potentially use around 450,000 tonnes of
"The shipment is a drop in the ocean ... but it is a very
important drop," de Wit said.
IDH, primarily funded by the Dutch government, organized the
partners in the joint initiative in 2012.
The fertilizer is being distributed to smallholder farmers
as well as to cooperatives by the program's partners and cocoa
giants, including Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars,
Mondelez, Barry Callebaut, Continaf and ECOM
Agroindustrial Corp Ltd, as well as some smaller partners. The
shipment arrived in Abidjan last week, de Wit said.
This is the first such program to bring together cocoa
companies, governments and non-governmental organizations to
distribute fertilizer, which has been developed specifically for
West African soil and climatic conditions, de Wit said. It was
purchased from Morocco-based producer OCP.
When used properly with other farming techniques, the
fertilizer has the potential to help double cocoa harvest yields
in West Africa, IDH stated in a release.
In the 2011/12 crop year, Ivory Coast produced an estimated
1.476 million tonnes of cocoa, International Cocoa Organization
Only 40,000 tonnes of fertilizer were used at that time, IDH
stated. More than 70 percent of the world's cocoa, the key
ingredient in chocolate, is grown in West Africa.
"A lot of farmers choose rubber over cocoa because rubber is
... an easier crop and it gets you easier money," de Wit said.