In love with the cocoa: behind the world's favourite food, we track sustainability issues from bean to bar.
The chocolate challenge
The vast majority of cocoa production comes from smallholder farms under 5 ha, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO). There is often a lack of organization amongst farmers to share resources or burdens, and their productivity is often low or of low quality due to inefficient farming methods. The situation is further compounded by the fact that cocoa trees only grow in regions close to the equator, under the right conditions, and are vulnerable to disease, pests and climate change.
Dr Torben Erbrath, Director of the Association of the German Confectionery Industry BDSI’s Chocolate, Chocolate Products and Cocoa Division, says that if nothing is done, consumers will eventually feel the effects. “ Without empowering and investing in small-scale farmers, we will struggle to provide sufficient cocoa supply in the future, ” he explains. “ Young farmers will leave cocoa growing.”
Taking the initiative
There are lots of programmes and initiatives intended to help cocoa farmers and improve the sustainability of the industry, but, some argue, these are not always as effective as hoped and often only really reach the most organized farmers. The International Cocoa Initiative, the European Cocoa Association, the Federation of Cocoa Commerce and the World Cocoa Farmers’ Organization are just some of the entities that have sprung up in the last few decades to improve the sustainability of the cocoa industry. Add to that a number of agreements and frameworks, such as the Global Cocoa Agenda, signed at the first World Cocoa Conference in 2012 by most of the cocoa-producing and -consuming nations as well as industry players, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of all involved to make cocoa production sustainable. This has resulted in many governments of cocoa-producing countries developing national plans aimed at achieving sustainable cocoa production.
A taste of standardization
ISO technical committee ISO/TC 34, Food products, subcommittee SC 18, Cocoa, which is jointly managed by ISO’s member for the Netherlands (NEN) along with members from key cocoa-producing countries Côte d’Ivoire (CODINORM) and Ghana (GSA), is ISO’s first committee for sustainably produced commodities, a new field of expertise for ISO. Together with the European Committee for standardization’s technical committee CEN/TC 415, Sustainable and Traceable Cocoa, whose secretariat is held by Danish Standards (DS), ISO’s member for Denmark, they are developing the ISO 34101 series of standards, Sustainable and traceable cocoa beans, which aims to address the challenges the cocoa sector faces. Along with International Standards such as ISO 2451 and ISO 2292, which set the specifications and quality requirements for cocoa beans, the ISO 34101 series of standards is designed to be used by all those involved in the cocoa supply chain, from the farmers to the purchasers. It is intended to help with the implementation of good agricultural practices, protection of the environment and the improvement of the social conditions of farmers.