Focus On: Cocoa

Focus On: Cocoa

Chocolate is one of the world’s favourite foods but growing cocoa is a hard task. Fairtrade is helping to make it more sustainable.

Ninety per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about 6 million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.

Cocoa trees grow in tropical environments, within 10 degrees latitude from the equator. The ideal climate for growing cocoa is hot, rainy, and tropical, with lush vegetation to provide shade for the cocoa trees.

The primary growing regions are Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produce over 60% of global cocoa supply.

Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop, and farmers must protect trees from wind, sun, pests, and disease. With proper care, cocoa trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the fifth year, and they can continue at this level for 10 years. But for all this hard work, cocoa farmers gain very little from a very profitable global cocoa trade.

Between 2016 and 2017 global cocoa prices dropped by by more than a third, disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and the number of farmers is falling because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession – the average age of a cocoa farmer is over 50. Farmers aren’t benefiting sufficiently and remain in poverty as their income fails to keep up with rising production costs and household expenses.

How does Fairtrade make things better?

Fairtrade helps to make cocoa farming in places like Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana more sustainable through payment of the Fairtrade Premium.

Fairtrade Premium is unique to Fairtrade and is an additional sum of money paid over and above the Fairtrade price. It goes into a communal fund for the workers and farmers to invest – for example in business or community projects – enabling them to better provide for themselves and their communities.

In 2017, cocoa farmers earned just over €38 million in Fairtrade Premium and 45% of all Fairtrade Premium was invested as cash payments to members and in the provision of agricultural tools and inputs, supporting farmers to meet their daily needs and improve their farming practices.