World Cocoa Foundation President Raises Concerns Over ‘Unprecedented Challenges’ At Partnership Meeting
President of the World Cocoa Foundation Rick Scobey, has raised concerns over the ‘unprecedented challenges’ facing the sector in his opening remarks for the organisation’s annual partnership meeting, writes Neill Barston
Speaking on the opening day of a two-day online conference replacing the physical event that had been due to be staged in Bogota, Colombia, he stressed the urgency of supporting farmers, whom he stressed were vital to the future sustainability of the sector.
The event includes more than 400 participants from its global membership base including major cocoa producers, confectionery brands including Mars, Mondelez, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Hershey and Nestle, with a number of key speakers across the industry including Sunny Verghese, of Olam, chairman of the World Council for Sustainable Development, Jutta Urpilainen, the EU’s commissioner for international partnerships, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board, and Aldo Cristiano, president of Caobisco, the European chocolate, biscuits and confectionery association.
President Scobey said: “Cocoa farmers around the world are facing unprecedented challenges in response to the health, social and economic impact of covid, indeed all of our lives been affected by the pandemic.
“We all want to do more to ensure a thriving, sustainable and just cocoa sector, which is why we wanted to bring everyone together under the theme of scaling impact in disrupted times.
“The covid pandemic has significantly disrupted every part of the cocoa supply chain, cocoa grindings declined by 15% in the second and third quarter of 2020 against last year, this has sent prices sharply lower and contributed to a decline in cocoa purchases. These have created significant risks and adverse impacts for everyone in the supply chain.
“Our top priority must be to protect the lives and livelihoods of the millions of cocoa farmers who are facing significant health and economic risk as a result of the covid crisis.”
He noted that the WCF had recently made a donation of $835,000 farmers around the world, on top of company contributions of hundreds of millions from individual company donations from within the sector.
Highlighting several core areas of focus, he said that the past year had seen a significant move with the global commitment to a living income, to make cocoa farming profitable and sustainable, which has been fully supported by WCF members into 2020/21 crop seasons. However, he noted that the Ghana Cocoa Board had raised concerns about its implementation during the pandemic, which will be addressed during the conference.
Scobey added: “More than ever, it is critical that industry and government engage in dialogue about how to protect farmer income at a time of reduced demand, market uncertainty and a 2019/2020 market surplus according to ICCO forecasts. These are real and complex issues and must talk through how to best manage risk and volatility in this market, and maximise the long-term income of farming.”
As reported by Confectionery Production previously, President Scobey said the industry remains notably concerned by the scale of child labour that still exists within key markets of Ghana and Ivory Coast.
While he noted with concern the recent NORC at the University of Chicago report showed that 1.56 million children remain exposed to hazardous forms of labour within the sector, he felt that the combined efforts of industry and government were having a tangible effect.