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Building a traceable, sustainable future for cocoa

June 11, 2018

For cocoa farmers in Ghana, and suppliers like Cargill, the road to traceability starts with development, partnerships and technology as simple as a bar code.

Affixed to bags of cocoa delivered by farmers certified as sustainable producers, the bar codes are part of how Cargill — together with farm GPS maps — is piloting a program with farmers in its direct supply chain to create transparent systems that can follow more and more cocoa beans back to their source. For farmers participating in the Cargill Cocoa Promise, it brings an increased premium and the benefits that come with meeting that standard.

For chocolatiers around the world, it’s a step toward keeping a $100 billion industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people globally up to speed with evolving consumer preferences for products that are produced in sustainable ways.

“Improved transparency is expected from the market, and will help ensure cocoa farmers continue to get to access the sustainability market,” said Suzanne Uittenbogaard, value chain manager for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. “Being able to prove the origins and the conditions under which cocoa is grown is increasingly important.”

Farmers who are certified as sustainable producers earn a premium and gain access to services, giving them the ability to grow and helping create long-term viability in a cocoa supply chain that is expected to face rising demand alongside evolving and more complex consumer preferences.  

In 2017, Cargill strengthened the Cocoa Promise – its commitment to building a more sustainable cocoa sector for generations to come —with new goals that reinforce the company’s commitment to delivering on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and further improving farmer and community livelihoods. Those includes a goal to implement full traceability in all of Cargill’s cocoa supply chains by 2030.

“The industry has work to do to achieve full traceability, but we’re well on our way,” Uittenbogaard said.

Moving farmers and the industry forward

In recent years, Cargill’s investments in Ghana and Ivory Coast – the world’s two top cocoa-producing countries – have reached tens of thousands of farmers through the Cocoa Promise. The company is  developing additional, scalable benefits that reach cooperatives, such as more efficient management of daily operations through real-time visibility of their inventory and costs.

Other improvements, made in tandem with steps toward traceability, have also helped farmers move forward. Under an improved purchasing system through Cargill’s licensed buying company in Ghana, for example, beans are weighed digitally in front of farmers for transparency. A digital payment system gives farmers their earnings on the spot via electronic transfer, eliminating the risks of a cash payment.

“The Cargill Cocoa Promise enables farmers to invest, increase their capacity through 1-to-1 coaching and benefit from access to affordable farm inputs—all steps to achieve better incomes and living standards,” Uittenbogaard said.

Helping farmers succeed is an integral part of building and maintaining a reliable supply chain for an industry valued at around $100 billion globally. Cocoa trade creates hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world, ranging from multinational confectioners headquartered in Europe or North America – one prominent European confectioner alone has more than 300,000 employees globally – to specialty start-ups and product lines focused on offerings like organic and Fairtrade certified cocoa.

In the United States, about 400 companies make chocolate and confections, with another 250 companies supplying them, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. The Foundation counts about 70,000 American jobs directly involved in making chocolate and confectionery products, and twice as many involved in distribution and sales.

"Never before has it been more critical for cocoa farmers to be the master of their own destiny and improve their own livelihoods,” said Lionel Soulard, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate’s managing director for West Africa. "We strongly believe that this innovative way of doing business is the future.”