Ivory Coast, Ghana lift threat to cocoa sustainability schemes

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Top cocoa producers Ivory Coast and Ghana said on Wednesday that chocolate makers would continue for now to be allowed to run sustainability schemes in their countries, linking them to the success of a program to ease pervasive farmer poverty.

FILE PHOTO: Ghanian cocoa farmer, Aziz Kwadio, 34, walks inside a cocoa plantation in the village of Essam, in the western region in Ghana June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ange Aboa/File Photo

The future of the schemes had appeared to be in jeopardy when the two nations said earlier this month they would be re-examined as chocolate makers had been slow to pay living income differential (LID) for bean purchases.

In a bid to ease pervasive farmer poverty, the West African neighbors, which together produce more than 60% of the world’s cocoa, introduced the $400 LID in July on all cocoa sales for the 2020/21 season.

A joint statement by the Ivory Coast’s Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) and Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) said that while the LID and the sustainability programs could co-exist and complement each other, they would monitor how programs were being implemented “to decide on them going forward”.

Under pressure from western consumers for ethically sourced products, chocolate makers like Mars Wrigley, Mondelez,Barry Callebaut, Hershey’s and Nestlehave spent millions in recent years on sustainability schemes.

“Our approach is to ensure that the farmer gets remunerative income. LID is not in competition with sustainability . Our position is, if sustainability can thrive, it requires improved farmer income,” said Cocobod spokesman Stephen Fiifi Boafo.

The schemes, which certify cocoa ingredients as ethically sourced, are key to chocolate makers’ branding. They have had little success however in tackling widespread child labor and deforestation in West Africa’s cocoa sector.

“We reaffirm our commitment to eradicating child labor and deforestation in cocoa and will collaborate with all stakeholders to promote and sustain the cocoa industry,” the joint statement said.

Ivory Coast and Ghana plan to use funds raised from the living income differential to guarantee farmers get 70% of a $2,600 a tonne free-on-board target price.

If global prices rise above $2,900, proceeds from the LID will be placed in a stabilization fund that would be used to ensure farmers get the target price when market prices fall.

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Jan Harvey