On his plantation, located in Zeredougou, in the department of Tiassalé, in the heart of the Ivorian cocoa production zone, Noël N’Dri Yao launches the small harvest. The pods are still hanging on the trunks of the trees, but he is ready to lift the veil on his accounts. Three years ago, he chose to join the Scapen cooperative, created in 2015. It delivers its beans to the world leader in cocoa, the Swiss group Barry Callebaut, and benefits from a support program.
“ I have help with pruning and treating the trees against fungi and insects. For the big season, I went from producing five to seven 60-kilo bags “says Noël N’Dri Yao. In 2023, he claims to receive 900 CFA francs (1.37 euros) per kilo, the official price set by the Café Cacao Council, the state body responsible for regulating the sector. The cooperative pays him an annual cocoa “sustainability” bonus of 12,000 CFA francs, or about 18 euros.
Added to this is the payment of 544 CFA francs per year and per tree, excluding cocoa trees, planted on his plot as part of an agroforestry project led by Barry Callebaut. With a maximum, in the long term, of 70 trees. “ Even if I earn more by being in the cooperative, cocoa does not allow me to live. It’s the palm tree that earns me the most concludes Noël N’Dri Yao, who owns 2 hectares of oil palm trees in addition to his nearly 2 hectares of cocoa trees.
At the start of the chain, the Ivorian farmer continues to suffer from too low a purchase price for cocoa. Especially since the cost of fertilizers, which he has to pay out of his own money, has increased sharply. A harsh reality that does not escape the giants of the food industry present in the lucrative chocolate market. They are just as confronted with the thorny questions of child labor or deforestation.
“Favoring action over training”
In this context, Barry Callebaut, a supplier to the big names in the industry (Mondelez, Nestlé, Hershey’s, Lindt, Ferrero, etc.), has also decided to push back the deadlines for its “sustainable chocolate”. On Wednesday May 10, it announced the revision of the objectives of its “Forever Chocolate” program, launched in 2016 and whose results were expected in 2025.
This plan, presented by Antoine de Saint-Affrique, current boss of Danone, who then headed Barry Callebaut, was, it is true, very ambitious. It pledged to lift 500,000 cocoa farmers out of poverty, eradicate child labor, be carbon neutral, have a positive role in the forest and ensure that 100% of its products and ingredients would be sustainable. All this by 2025. No assessment will be made on this date, since the company has chosen to modify its reference system, aware of the impossibility of achieving all the goals set. However, it provides a snapshot of the current situation.
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