Cocoa supply chains



RSC Cargill Cocoa Artwork Mosaic


Cocoa is grown primarily by the more than 6 million smallholder farmers who produce the crop on small farms that average about 2 to 3 hectares (5 to 7 acres).

The brightly colored pods that grow on these trees are harvested by hand for their beans, which are dried and processed into a variety of products, including chocolate.

The world faces several challenges in maintaining cocoa supplies. Nearly two-thirds of the global crop comes from just four countries in West Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. The rest comes from other countries within 20 degrees of the Equator. The majority of smallholder cocoa farms, especially in West Africa, were established 20 to 30 years ago. Many of these farmers are struggling with aging, low-productive trees, and infrastructure in rural areas can be limited. The average age of cocoa farmers has risen to about 45 to 50 years old, as many young people in cocoa-producing countries are migrating to cities rather than farming like their parents. And cocoa is competing with other cash crops like palm, rubber and soy for land.

While the challenges for cocoa productivity are evident, worldwide demand is expected to rise steadily at between 2 percent and 3 percent annually. Growth is especially strong in Asia, where millions of consumers are entering the global middle class and, with more disposable income, are discovering a taste for chocolate.

Increasing the supply of cocoa needs to be done responsibly, empowering smallholder farmers so they can have a viable future with better incomes, higher cocoa yields and more sustainable farming practices. Consideration also needs to be taken for labor practices, community health and education, and environmental impact. All of the partners along the cocoa supply chain will need to work together to make this happen.

RSC Cargill Cocoa Map of Global Cocoa Production

Where we operate

Cargill has participated in the cocoa market for more than 30 years, and today we operate along the entire cocoa supply chain. We have sourcing and processing operations in major cocoa-growing countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, Cameroon and Indonesia. We process a full range of cocoa and chocolate products at facilities in Europe, North America, Indonesia and Brazil, which are used by food companies around the globe. We also have a number of consumer chocolate brands, including Wilbur®, Peter’s and Veliche® chocolates.

Making progress toward a sustainable, transparent cocoa supply chain

Creating a sustainable future for cocoa farmers while meeting rising global demand will require stakeholders in the cocoa supply chain to collaborate. Sustainability goes beyond just how the crop is grown; it includes making sure that cocoa farming remains a viable economic opportunity for those who farm it. Cargill is working with a range of partners to improve cocoa farmers’ livelihoods, share best agronomic practices, encourage fair labor and strengthen cocoa-producing communities. These efforts are all part of our commitment under the Cargill Cocoa Promise to accelerate progress toward a sustainable and transparent global cocoa supply chain.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise

The Cargill Cocoa Promise is our global commitment to make a lasting difference in cocoa supply chains across three key areas: farmer training, community support and farm development. We work on three continents training farmers to help them grow crops more sustainably, earn certification for the high-quality beans they produce and receive higher incomes as a result. In turn, they can reinvest that money in their operations, families and communities. We also work with our partners to increase access to education and healthcare in cocoa communities. And we direct our energy toward long-term farm development that enhances biodiversity and improves infrastructure.

Through our Cocoa Promise activities, we also are supporting sector-wide initiatives such as CocoaAction. Led by the World Cocoa Foundation, CocoaAction is a commitment by leading cocoa and chocolate companies to work together with national governments toward improving livelihoods and economic opportunities in West Africa’s cocoa-growing communities.

Explore the Cargill Cocoa Promise in action, and view the 2014 progress report.

Empowering farmers

To help train farmers in the sustainable practices that will earn them certifications and premium payments, we have established more than 2,500 farmer field schools. These schools offer hands-on knowledge sharing and have allowed us to train more than 115,000 cocoa farmers to raise their yields, crop quality and incomes. An independent study conducted by Dutch research institute LEI found that, on average, long-term training program participants in Côte d’Ivoire earned 53 percent more than recent program entrants.

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Empowering cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire

Supporting farmer cooperatives also is essential to our approach. Coops are powerful tools to provide individual farmers with increased access to markets, and they serve as a hub to share best practices. In 2013, we partnered with TechnoServe and the International Finance Corporation to launch the Cargill Coop Academy, a first of its kind initiative that trains coop leaders in business management skills so they can make their organizations more successful.

Our farmer training efforts work in concert with certification programs like UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance, and the benefits to the farmer are clear. Since the launch of our certification programs, $25 million in premium payments have been made to farmers and farmer organizations globally. During the 2012-13 crop year, farmers in our certified cooperatives produced more than 90,000 metric tons of certified cocoa and received premium payments of about $6.25 million. A 2013 study found that in Côte d’Ivoire, 90 percent of premiums are used to develop farmer coops or are otherwise reinvested in the community.

Learn more about our farmer training work.

RSC Cargill Cocoa farmer training statistics


Farm development

To replace aging cocoa trees with declining productivity, we have distributed more than 25 million seedlings to farmers globally. And we have established more than 650 demonstration plots to give farmers practical instruction on new techniques and technologies. In Côte d’Ivoire, our Yiri+ program with Syngenta is successfully educating farmers on crop protection and disease management.

We also are encouraging sustainable agricultural practices. Traditional cocoa farms had higher biodiversity because cocoa trees were planted in the shade among other crops and trees. We are working with farmers and local partners in Ghana to plant shade trees in and around cocoa plantations. To date, we have helped plant 46,300 shade trees that cover more than 2,000 hectares. In northern Brazil, we made a $3 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy to restore deforested lands and grow cocoa in the shade of the forest canopy, boosting biodiversity.

Read more about our farm development efforts.

RSC Cargill Cocoa farmer funding available and cocoa production amount 


Encouraging responsible labor practices

Cargill is concerned about the safety and well-being of children who may be involved in dangerous or forced work on cocoa farms. We will not tolerate the use of illegal, abusive or enforced labor in any of our operations. Although we do not own or operate cocoa farms, our goal is a cocoa supply chain where no children are subject to unacceptable labor conditions.

We believe that when confronting these problems, it is essential to target poverty, which is often the root cause of labor issues. As farmer incomes rise through our training and community support programs described above, cocoa farmers are more likely to keep their children in school and out of the field.

Our farmer training programs include raising awareness of child labor issues. We are working with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to implement best practices, which have been proven to help farmers identify tasks that may harm children.

Our training is based on the codes of conduct of UTZ Certified and the Rainforest Alliance, which include explicit prohibitions on child labor based on International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. These allow children only to help their parents outside of school time for a limited number of hours; stipulate that children must not undertake work that jeopardizes their health or safety; and specify that children must always be accompanied by an adult relative.

We have a dedicated team on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure consistent implementation of our child labor policies, coordinate our approach across all our activities and programs, and liaise with other stakeholders. All our employees in Côte d’Ivoire are being trained by ICI to help them understand the issues and identify children who may be at risk, and we work with our certified farmer cooperatives to build similar awareness. If we are alerted to any child at risk, we communicate with cooperative management and regional government officials, so they can investigate and take any necessary actions.

In addition to our own efforts, we support the efforts of ICI, ILO, and WCF to help combat child labor.

RSC Cargill Cocoa farmer training, development and community triptych


Strengthening communities

As part of our global partnership with CARE, we are working to provide better access to healthcare and education, which not only strengthens cocoa-growing communities today, it makes them better places to live and work for future generations.

We have worked with more than 120 communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to develop Community Action Plans that identify communities’ greatest needs and build roadmaps to meet them. Our goal is to work with an additional 86 communities by 2017.

Together with CARE, we are renovating and building schools, training teachers and providing educational materials that are helping the young people of cocoa-growing communities achieve brighter futures. So far, we have built 37 schools and improved access to education for 34,000 children. We work with parents to better understand nutrition and make sure their children go to school.

We also are teaming up with the World Cocoa Foundation on a project to improve opportunities for mothers in Côte d’Ivoire. During the pilot phase of this project, 30 women with schoolchildren from the community of Anno were awarded grants of $250 to develop small businesses. The grant also covered school fees for their children, and all of the mothers received education on business skills, children’s rights, and healthcare such as HIV/AIDS prevention. Today, all 30 are operating small businesses in agriculture, food service and other industries.

Learn more about our work to support cocoa communities.

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