The Global Cocoa Agenda

Prior to the first World Cocoa Conference in November 2012, the cocoa industry was faced with a number of challenges while the demand for sustainable cocoa was on the rise. At this time, the major players of the industry had not developed a strategy to reassure consumers that cocoa was being sustainably produced and that the farmers producing the cocoa were being compensated fairly. Also, the type of cocoa that was being demanded had and continues to evolve. Consumers were demanding cocoa products that were not only sustainable, but certified, traceable, and ensuring high level of food safety. The farmers were struggling to meet these demands due to a number of reasons such as poor business skills, lack of information, losses due to pests and diseases and the younger generation moving away from rural life. In an attempt to resolve these issues, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) agreed to organize the first World Cocoa Conference. The main outcome of the conference was a Global Cocoa Agenda for a sustainable world cocoa economy containing an action plan at the global level with specific actions at the national level.

The four challenges addressed on the agenda were:

Sustainable Cocoa Production. The business model for cocoa farmers is characterized by poor and uneconomic systems with problems such as limited access to planting material, extension services and credit.

Sustainable Cocoa Industry Chain. The movement of cocoa in the industry chain is often sub-optimal due to mishandling of the goods along with lack of market transparency, knowledge on food safety and restrictive access to finance.

Sustainable Cocoa Consumption. Consumer’s expectations are unfulfilled. There is a potential for expansion of cocoa consumption in emerging markets and producing countries which should be strengthened.

Strategic Management. Initiatives in the cocoa sector are generally uncoordinated and contradict each other. This causes farmers to feel confused and negatively impacts their performance.

To overcome these challenges, it was proposed that certain actions be taken by stakeholders in the cocoa industry. Some of those actions are:

  • To transform cocoa farming into successful business entities, attractive to younger generations.
  • To enable cocoa farmers to operate as members of viable farmers’ associations.
  • To promote the use of best known practices along the value chain.
  • To formulate and implement sustainable cocoa consumption strategies that meet evolving expectations and concerns of consumers.

At the 2014 World Cocoa Conference, a highlight of the progress in the implementation of the Global Cocoa Agenda in the main producing countries of Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria was given. It was reported that these countries have developed Public Private Partnership Platforms to formulate the National Cocoa Development Plans. They also reported experiencing the same challenge with the younger generation and their lack of interest in farming.

Progress by importing countries was also reported. The Netherlands, Germany, Russia and Switzerland reported on their activities to promote the development of a sustainable cocoa value chain from their perspectives. The countries have two ways of approaching this, on the one hand, by promoting the consumption of products based on sustainable cocoa in the home markets, while raising consumer awareness and supporting cocoa sustainability programs in producing countries on the other hand. The Netherlands and Germany were characterized as front runners in this effort. Although Russia stressed the importance of increased sustainability of the cocoa sector as well, it did not make any formal commitments.

The industry, in general, was asked to report on its progress, challenges, and opportunities. Mr. Bill Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation, presented CocoaAction, a strategy developed by twelve of the largest cocoa and chocolate companies in the world, to coordinate and align their cocoa sustainability efforts. The main objective of CocoaAction is to improve the farmers’ livelihoods, using a holistic approach with the emphasis on providing key inputs in cocoa farms. Some of the entities involved in this initiative were ADM, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, Cargill, Hershey and Mars and Mondelēz.

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