The world’s leading producers of cocoa, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, boycotted a two-day global conference on cocoa sustainability in Brussels, Belgium that ended on October 27.
The boycott of the World Cocoa Foundation’s 2022 Partnership Meeting is in protest over low support and resistance from the international chocolate market for a joint Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire initiative meant to improve the living conditions of the cocoa farmers.
The two West African neighbours supply more than 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans. Both have been pushing forward the Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative (CIGCI) that seeks to boost the incomes of farmers through extra incomes.
But the initiative introduced in 2019 has suffered limited support from chocolate producers, cocoa beans buyers and key stakeholders, resulting in the recent boycott.
“Our members are not happy with the state of play, and we want to send a clear message that we will not undermine the livelihoods of farmers,” a statement issued by the CIGCI secretariat in Accra on October 25 said.
It was signed by the Executive Secretary of the CIGCI, Alex Assanvo.
Until this year, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have been key participants of the biannual conference on cocoa instituted in 2012 to chart a clear course and commitment to the sustainability of the sector.
But when this year’s conference, held on the theme: ‘Partnerships for Impact,’ opened on October 26, representatives from both countries were conspicuously absent.
Invited representatives from the countries, including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, the Executive Director of the Ivorian Conseil du Café Cacao (CCC), Yves Brahima Koné, the country’s Minister of Water and Forests, Laurent Tchagba, who were all billed to speak, did not turn up as part of the boycott.
Their absence marked the first time in the initiative’s young history that neither a representative from Ghana nor Cote d’Ivoire was at the event.
Executive Secretary of the CIGCI, who signed the statement, said in spite of the constructive discussions with partners on the improved incomes for farmers – the living income differential of $400 per tonne – support for the programme had been minimal.
Mr Assanvo explained that COCOBOD and CCC have noted with disappointment that the chocolate industry was not completely following through with its commitment.
It said they did this by trying to negotiate that the origin differential, which is a quality premium associated to all producing countries.
“The immediate consequence is the alteration of the beneficial effects of the LID on the price guaranteed to the millions of small cocoa farmers in the two countries,” he said.
The Deputy Director of Public Affairs at COCOBOD, Fiifi Boafo, told the Graphic Business that the two countries were of the view that the conversation about sustainability had been consistently narrowed to only social and environmental impact, leaving out the economic aspect of sustainability.
“It has always been: Deal with child labour, deal with deforestation but how can the farmer ensure the sustainability of the industry where the industry has always pushed the price down,” he asked.
“During the COVID-19 period, we saw surplus in the market and that led to price fall. The price is still down, in spite of the low supply last year resulting from the dry weather, among others.
“So, clearly the low price has nothing to do with over production,” he said.
Mr Boafo said while the major chocolate brands complained of over production and asked West African producers to manage supply in order to improve the price, many of them were busy sponsoring plantations in other countries like Ecuador and Malaysia, raising questions about their real motives.