The VOICE Network and its members are deeply concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on cocoa farming households, a group already in a vulnerable position. Our immediate concern is for the health and wellbeing of members of cocoa farming households. We are equally concerned about the direct economic impact this global crisis will have on families, who live already well below a living income. During the 2016 price crash, the cocoa and chocolate industry made strong profits while farmers and producing governments lost billions of dollars. Cocoa and chocolate companies did virtually nothing then to support their farmers. This cannot happen again.
Today, we release a Call to Action to the cocoa and chocolate industry to do everything within their means to help protect their cocoa farmers. We offer four key considerations from the chocolate and cocoa industry which play into their role and responsibility, and mirrors responses we see in their employee care in consuming countries.
Cease all non-essential farm visits
Support communication to farming communities on health messaging
Use existing supply chain mechanisms for provisioning farming communities
Set up an emergency relief fund commensurate to the challenge
Currently almost no cocoa farmers in the main cocoa production countries in West Africa are earning a living income. Without a living income for cocoa farmers, cocoa will never be sustainable. If a farmer must choose between feeding his family, and not cutting down his old growth trees, it isn’t a choice. Other challenges facing the sector – such as deforestation and child labour – will be impossible to tackle if farmers still live in poverty.
It should be abundantly clear that living income is the starting point of a conversation on farmer income, not a finish line. Those people reading this paper would not be satisfied with earning just a living income. Why should a cocoa farmer? Every farmer should be able to earn at least a living income, but preferably a lot more.
Several initiatives in the past year have started to communicate about desired cocoa price levels for farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The situation is not transparent, as each approach has a different methodology to calculate a living income and a different way to transfer additional money.
We believe, however, that these living income price calculations so far have erred significantly on the low side. In a paper released today by the Cocoa Barometer Consortium, we explain why we think current living income reference prices are too low, and why farm gate prices for farmers should be higher still.
June 2020 update: since the original publication of this call for an EU Due Diligence requirement, various cocoa and chocolate companies have joined this coalition. In addition to the orginal industry signatories of Barry Callebaut, Mars Wrigley and Mondelez, we can add Nestlé, Tony Chocolonely and Unilever. An updated version of the document can be found here.
We, a group of companies (Barry Callebaut AG, Mars Wrigley and Mondelēz International), The VOICE Network*, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade, call on the European Union, by far the largest importer and consumer of cocoa in the world, to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirements of companies in global cocoa supply chains, aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
We strongly believe that we all need to take
action together to effectively address some of the systemic human rights and
environmental challenges in the cocoa supply chain. National governments must
enforce and strengthen their own labour, child protection and environmental
laws, and companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence to identify
risk, jointly evaluate remediation and take action which is proportionate to
their exposure to the human rights and environmental risk.
Therefore, we think an EU-wide approach to
due diligence will benefit all actors in the supply chain in terms of a clear
and consistent set of rules and common intent.
The EU should:
to negotiate bilateral agreements with cocoa origin governments to create the
frameworks necessary to achieve this aim and provide financial and technical
support to those governments to do so.
a regulatory and policy framework within the EU to ensure that companies
conduct human rights and environmental due diligence in their supply
chains. This will help encourage
sustainable cocoa production, support consumer trust and help sustain market
demand for cocoa from West Africa over the long term.
Find our Joint Position Statement outlining the details of our call to action here. We are looking forward to working with relevant authorities, the rest of the industry and various stakeholders to discuss what is proposed. We invite others to endorse our Joint Position Statement.
We are looking for a treasurer to join our board in this dynamic
time for both cocoa and VOICE. You will be supporting a small, passionate
staff, doing big, crazy things in the cocoa sector. The treasurer will be
working with the Managing Director and Coordinator to strengthen financial processes,
including bookkeeping, financial reporting and fundraising. Besides the regular
board meetings, the Treasurer will be expected to spend about 3-12 hours a
month in support of the Network.
This is an honorary position, as a board member you will not receive any remuneration for this role, but reasonable expenses will be covered. The board will meet four times a year, either through teleconference or in person. Additionally, there are two annual General Assemblies of the Network.
The announcement that the Ivorian and Ghanaian governments will raise the floor price for cocoa farmers, as well as levy an extra fee to cocoa buyers, is an important and necessary step in order to make the cocoa sector more sustainable and should be supported by the cocoa industry. The VOICE network welcomes this historic initiative by the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to improve the income situation for farmers, although questions remain on its implementation.
With a growth in members and an increase in activities, we are now looking to strengthen the coordination of our network. With this new position, we are looking for someone who can help steering the network, with a focus on planning, monitoring, administration and logistics.
Read the vacancy here. Deadline for submissions is August 21st.
The past months have seen a lot of developments around certification in the cocoa sector – such as the release of the new ISO standard, Fairtrade’s revised Minimum Price and Living Income Reference Price, and a consultation on the first draft of the new merged Rainforest/UTZ standard. We believe that it is time for civil society to take stock of where we are.
To this purpose we are pleased to share a short position paper on the current state of certification. Of particular concern to us is the danger of a race to the bottom on pricing, and we call strongly on especially the Rainforest Alliance to put in place minimum pricing and premium systems. Increasing market share by paying the farmer less should not be a strategy for any sustainability standard.
In this position paper, we look at the strengths and shortcomings of voluntary standards, and argue that in order to achieve true sustainability there must be mandatory due diligence regulations, creating a level playing field for all.
Report paints dark chocolate picture: as prices fall, woes rise for farmers, children, forests
Cocoa growing communities, particularly in West Africa, are facing poverty, child labour and deforestation that have been made worse by a rapid fall in prices for cocoa. Widely touted efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment made in the past decade are having little impact. In fact, the modest scope of the proposed solutions does not even come close to addressing the scale of the problem. These are core conclusions of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer, a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector.