Sustainable Cocoa Forum: "Germany bears a special responsibility"

The "Sustainable Cocoa Forum", initiated by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with industry and civil society in 2012, is currently repositioning itself. In the future it will work as an association advocating improved living conditions for cocoa farmers and supporting an increase in the market share of sustainably produced cocoa.

Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt and Federal Minister of Development Dr. Gerd Müller opened the first general meeting of the new association on 13 May 2014. "As the world's second largest processor of cocoa, Germany bears a special responsibility. We are therefore very pleased that all important stakeholders in the cocoa sector are willing to commit themselves through their membership in this association. This provides a solid basis for the Sustainable Cocoa Forum," emphasised Schmidt.

In June 2012 the Federal Government brought together all relevant stakeholders of the con-fectionery industry, the retail sector and civil society, among them organisations focused on promoting compliance with environmental and social standards, such as Fairtrade. The net-work has so far consisted of approx. 80 organisations which are now called upon to join the association. The majority of them have already done so by being one of the founding mem-bers. The association is still open to any groups interested in questions of sustainable cocoa production.

What is new is the status of the forum as a self-supporting association with legal capacity. Until the end of May 2014, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Fed-eral Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the confectionery industry and the food retailers will be funding the forum and its activities. A secretariat based at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is responsible for the coordi-nation of the forum.

The objective of the forum is to achieve a lasting and effective improvement in the situation of cocoa farmers in the producer countries and to considerably increase the market share of sustainably produced cocoa in coordination with the partner countries. This is to be achieved in the long term by providing, if possible, nationwide training programmes on sustainable production methods in producer countries. Through the exchange on experiences and knowl-edge-sharing within the forum and broad sector-wide cooperation, the many individual activi-ties that already exist are to be made more effective and are to be networked, extended and brought together to form a holistic approach.

Creating a common understanding of sustainability

The forum is tasked with developing a common understanding of sustainability in the cocoa sector and drawing up a corresponding curriculum for training measures in the producer coun-tries. This is intended to form the basis for enabling the activities of all stakeholders to be better coordinated. The forum will also evaluate existing approaches aimed at strengthening sustainability in the cocoa sector. The most efficient measures will then be documented and disseminated as best practices. The process for developing a European CEN sustainability and traceability standard for cocoa will be taken into account in the forum’s work.

The Sustainable Cocoa Forum does not carry out any projects of its own but is instead an um-brella organisation for pilot projects in line with the jointly agreed criteria. The forum is cur-rently developing a joint project for the training and qualification of cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire which interested members may join.

Close involvement of producer countries

For this initiative to be a success, it will be of crucial importance that the producer countries are closely involved. The German government also presented the plans for the establishment of the forum at the meeting of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) in Ecuador in March 2012 and talked to high-level representatives of ICCO and the Alliance of Cocoa Pro-ducing Countries (COPAL) prior to the founding of the forum. The government of Côte d'Ivoire, a country which supplies about half of the German cocoa imports, participated in the founding meeting with high-level representatives and welcomed the forum as much-appreciated support in their own efforts to reform the cocoa sector. In May 2013 a delegation of the forum participated in a meeting of the Ivorian platform for projects in the cocoa sector at the invitation of the Ivorian Conseil Café-Cacao. As a basis for the activities of the forum on the ground, the BMEL and the BMZ signed a "Joint declaration of intent for the cocoa sector" with Coté d’Ivoire on 29 April 2014.

Information on cocoa production

Cocoa is one of the most important agricultural commodities worldwide and the source of livelihood for about 40 to 50 million people. About 4.3 million tonnes of cocoa is produced annually. Some 58 per cent of this is imported to Europe.

More than 11 per cent of the cocoa produced worldwide is processed in Germany alone. Cocoa is produced in West and Central Africa, Central America, and East Asia. The largest producers of raw cocoa are Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, accounting for about 59 per cent of global production. In 2007, cocoa exports accounted for a quarter of each of these two countries' export earnings.

90 to 95 per cent of all cocoa is grown by smallholders with between one and three hectares of land. Many of these family farms rely exclusively on cocoa for their income. Most cocoa farmers live in remote areas. Poor infrastructure and a lack of organisation among smallholders make it challenging and expensive for them to get access to technical advice, inputs and financial services. So far, only 30 to 50 per cent of the yield potential of local cocoa varieties has been tapped. This is due to a lack of know-how and a lack of investment incentives. Most cocoa farmers and their families live below the poverty line of two US dollars per day and capita.

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