The world’s largest chocolate makers, including Nestlé, Mars and Mondelez, and cocoa traders, such as Cargill and Olam, have agreed to co-operate in ending deforestation in key cocoa growing areas, starting with the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
The Twelve companies signed the agreement at a meeting hosted by Prince Charles in London on Thursday to develop an action plan to tackle deforestation by the next round of UN climate talks in November.
The pledge comes as the agricultural impact on the world’s tropical forests has increasingly come under the spotlight. Palm oil traders and buyers face mounting scrutiny over the destruction of tropical forests and peatland in Southeast Asia while HSBC, the UK-based bank, last month tightened lending guidelines to palm oil producers and traders after pressure from Greenpeace, the environmental group.
Until recently, the focus on agricultural commodities linked to deforestation has largely been on palm oil, soyabeans, timber and beef. But reports over the past few years have suggested that cocoa production is also contributing to the destruction of virgin forests.
High quality global journalism requires investment. Barry Parkin, head of sustainability at Mars who chairs the World Cocoa Foundation, which promotes sustainability in the cocoa sector, said the companies came together a year ago and now have six months to form a detailed action plan. “Now the hard work starts,” he said.
“We need to think about how we sort this complex issue and what does it take to do it.” The agreement is expected to lead to investments to protect and restore forests, as well as programmes to improve cocoa productivity for smallholder farmers. Groups that have signed up to the initiative include Ferrero, Hershey, Barry Callebaut and Ecom, as well as non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace, and the governments of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. James Wharton, the minister for international development, said that illegal deforestation was destroying livelihoods and natural habitats.
He said: “We can see this all too clearly in the cocoa industry, where the extreme poverty of farmers is a pervasive problem, child labour still exists, and we are seeing more and more forest disappearing.” High quality global journalism requires investment. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s leading producers of cocoa, accounting for about 60 per cent of total production.
“The vast majority of cocoa grown by farmers over the past 30 years has been on land where the forest was destroyed to plant cocoa trees. By harnessing the collective powers of the governments, companies and NGOs, we can help protect and restore the forest landscape, which in turn will help protect the future of cocoa,” said Gerard Manley at Olam. Critics of the cocoa and chocolate industries point to cocoa farming as a driving force behind rapid rates of deforestation in both countries. According to environmental group Mighty Earth, cocoa farming has had a devastating effect on the forests of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, with the former losing its forests at a faster rate than any other nation in Africa. “Chocolate is killing west African forests on a massive scale,” said Mighty Earth.
Ivory Coast and Ghana account for more than one-fifth of forest loss in west Africa and the Congo Basin during 2000 to 2014. Deforestation rates have been high in both countries, with 14.5 per cent of the Ivory Coast’s total forest area being lost in the same period, while in Ghana it was 12 per cent. Chocolate and cocoa producers are no strangers to political and media scrutiny.
Accusations over the use of child labour in the past has spurred companies to co-operate on initiatives to tackle malnutrition, poverty and lack of education in cocoa growing countries. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article.
With much of the world’s cocoa coming from small-scale growers in developing countries, supporting communities and making cocoa production an attractive proposition for the younger generation has been regarded as key to securing sustainable supplies.
The deforestation framework, organised by Prince Charles’s International Sustainability Unit, the World Cocoa Foundation and IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, will build on those initiatives. “It doesn’t matter whether the forest is being destroyed for cocoa, animal feed or palm oil. What matters is how the industry responds,” said John Sauven of Greenpeace UK.