The International Cocoa organization has reported a 75,000-ton cocoa shortfall for this growing season and that figure is expected to reach the million-ton mark by 2020 unless swift action is taken. While Eastern Europe and Brazil, the biggest cocoa consumers, have registered a surge in chocolate consumption in recent years, extreme weather events have hurt cocoa yields.
Image from IFC
The world’s top producers of cocoa—Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (59% of the global cocoa supply chain) and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon (23% together) – are also those hardest hit by drought and flooding yet least prepared to respond to them.
According to ND-GAIN, an index indicating countries’ vulnerability to climate change and readiness to adapt to it, Cote d’Ivoire ranks 154 on a relative scale of 1 to 178 (with 1 being the most resilient); Ghana ranks 102; and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon rank 99, 140, and 130, respectively.
As a result of cocoa’s unfortunate turn, many cocoa companies, traders and chocolate manufacturers have begun joint projects aiming to boost cocoa yields through sustainability in the supply chain. Projects have engaged multicorporation collaboration, civil society actors and standards bodies and have generated investments from stakeholder governments. Although some projects have proven fruitful, effective coordination and scalability are still lacking, which provides much opportunity for further collaboration between private and public sectors in the next decade.
Besides climate woes and low adaptive ability, cocoa’s poor performance reflects a supply chain plagued by economic and social issues. Compromised bargaining power of smallholders, income instability and dismal working conditions are prompting many young cocoa farmers to quit in search of livelihoods elsewhere. Other issues include poor or lack of infrastructure (roads, health facilities, schools, and electricity) and a paucity of farmer training capacity. Both would provide public and private sector partnerships with opportunities for positive intervention. Several reports emphasize that yield increase alone will neither alleviate smallholders’ sufferings nor secure supply chains. Thus, the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report called for a holistic approach to solving the cocoa crisis, one going “beyond productivity.”
In the last several years, consumer awareness of these issues surrounding cocoa production has expanded. Major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury, based in the United Kingdom, and Mars have committed to certified cocoa production standards that improve cocoa farmers’ security. These standards are specified by internationally recognized standard bodies such as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and the Rainforest Alliance. Worldwide, companies and stakeholder nations are shifting toward more sustainable cocoa and have engaged a variety of sectors in multilateral programs.
With climate change accelerating, other key commodities popping up on the risk radar include vanilla, palm oil and coffee, among others. Keurig Green Mountain, Coca Cola, Heinz, Chipotle and other major food companies have all warned that climate change threatens businesses. Clearly, much room remains for progress, but this also provides ample opportunity for multilateral cooperation in building a more sustainable future for people, planet and profit.
Cocoa data and facts from the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report. Blog compiled by Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN