Chocolate is one of the world’s favourite foods but growing cocoa is a hard task.
Ninety per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about 6 million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.
Cocoa trees grow in tropical environments, within 15 to 20 degrees latitude from the equator. The ideal climate for growing cocoa is hot, rainy, and tropical, with lush vegetation to provide shade for the cocoa trees. The primary growing regions are Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The largest producing country by volume is Côte d’Ivoire, which produces around 40% of global supply.
Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop, and farmers must protect trees from wind, sun, pests, and disease. With proper care, cocoa trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the fifth year, and they can continue at this level for 10 years. But for all this hard work, cocoa farmers gain very little from a very profitable global cocoa trade.
The international price of cocoa beans is currently rising in response to high demand for cocoa products as the industry wakes up to a potential long-term shortfall in global supply; disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and the number of farmers is falling because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession – the average age of a cocoa farmer is 50! Farmers aren’t benefitting sufficiently from the rise in prices and remain in poverty as their incomes fail to keep up with rising production costs and household expenses.
Fairtrade helps to make cocoa farming in places like Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana more sustainable through payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects so farmers can better provide for themselves and their communities. In 2011-12, cocoa farmers earned more than £7.5 million in Fairtrade Premiums and a large part was invested in directly supporting farming families meet their daily needs.