15 Sep 2017 — UK national newspaper, The Guardian, has written an expose about what it describes as “dirty cocoa” following an investigation which involved the news organization visiting the Ivory Coast, where much of the world’s cocoa grows. The article – entitled “Chocolate industry drives rainforest disaster in Ivory Coast” says the world’s chocolate industry is “driving deforestation on a devastating scale in West Africa.”
And that “illegal product” is mixed in with “clean” beans in the supply chain, making the point that it’s extremely difficult to know what products “dirty cocoa” may end up which poses the question: how does the industry make sure that illegal or “dirty” cocoa beans do not end up in the world’s most popular and well-loved chocolate brands?
The Guardian said that it “traveled across the country – where 40 percent of the world’s cocoa is cultivated, to document rainforests that have been cleared for cocoa plantation; villages and farmers occupying supposedly protected national parks; enforcement officials taking kickbacks for turning a blind eye to infractions and trading middlemen who supply the big brands indifferent to the provenance of beans.”
The article comes at the same time as environmental group, Mighty Earth, publishing its investigation “Chocolate’s Dark Secret,” which finds that a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally in national parks and other protected areas in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
The report documents how in several national parks and other protected areas, 90 percent or more of the land mass has been converted to cocoa. Less than four percent of the Ivory Coast remains densely forested, and the chocolate companies’ “laissez-faire approach” to sourcing has driven extensive deforestation in Ghana as well.
According to the report, in the Ivory Coast deforestation has pushed chimpanzees into just a few small pockets, and reduced the country’s elephant population from several hundred thousand to about 200-400.
Mighty Earth says that about half of the world cocoa market is controlled by just three companies: Cargill, Olam, and Barry Callebaut and its investigation traced how cocoa makes its way from growers in national parks, through middlemen, to these traders, who then sell it in Europe and the US where the world’s largest chocolate companies make it into truffles, bars, syrups, and myriad other chocolate treats.
“The extent to which big chocolate brands like Mars are linked to the destruction of national parks and protected areas is shocking,” said Etelle Higonnet, Mighty Earth Campaign, and Legal Director. “These companies need to take immediate action to end deforestation once and for all, and remediate past damage.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian said it has contacted Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé, as well as traders Cargill and Barry Callebaut, and the companies did not deny the specific allegation that illegal deforestation cocoa had entered their supply chains.
“All said they were working hard to eradicate the commodity from their products,” says the article.
FoodIngredientsFirst has also contacted Barry Callebaut and Cargill for comment.
Cargill sent a statement which says: “Cargill is working every day to build a thriving cocoa sector by partnering with farmers and working across our industry. While this report talks about the challenges in the cocoa sector, Cargill has been taking action on the ground for decades, addressing the problem head on. We have made a pledge to end deforestation – and we are committed to delivering.”
“Through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, we are working to address social and economic issues to ensure a sustainable supply of cocoa. We are increasing the amount of third-party certified cocoa to build on insights from certification programs. We anticipate more than 70 percent of the cocoa Cargill sourced from Cote d’Ivoire will be third-party verified or certified by the end of 2018.”
“And through our farmer training, capacity building and engagement programs, we have partnered with more than 100,000 cocoa farmers so they can run successful farming businesses, protect forests and improve soil health. To leverage traceability as part of the solution, we have used GPS to map over 50,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and are working to advance forest protection.”
“We are driving progress on a global scale through cutting-edge analysis with World Resources Institute in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and a three-year partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Brazil on programs to end deforestation.”
“Deepening our work on industry solutions, we joined the Cocoa and Forests Initiative in March to accelerate forest protection globally. This collaboration brings together 34 of the world’s largest cocoa and chocolate companies as well as the World Cocoa Foundation, IDH-the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit.”
“These steps and partnerships are critical to advance lasting solutions. We invite all stakeholders to join us in making the cocoa and chocolate products we love sustainable for generations to come.”
The issue of cocoa farming continues to make international headlines as there are increasing concerns about its sustainability, its environmental impact as well as ethical practices.
However industry leaders and bodies are working hard on sustainability policies and strengthening good agricultural practices (GAP) that are key to sustainable cocoa farming – they can improve the quality of cocoa, the productivity of a farm, make cocoa farming safer, and minimize negative environmental impact, all for the long-term benefit of cocoa farmers and their communities.
The world’s leading chocolate and cocoa companies have come together as part of The World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) CocoaAction strategy which aligns cocoa sustainability programming and aims to find and share best practices, including the best ways to measure GAP.
This is just one example of industry’s work to bolster sustainability and take more corporate responsibility.
For more information on cocoa farming, look out for a FoodIngredientsFirst Special Report examining the issue… coming soon.
By Gaynor Selby
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