Plans by the Ghana COCOBOD to use the cocoa sector sustainability programme as a bargaining chip for a proposed US$400-a-tonne premium on the commodity are inapproriate, given the programme’s importance to cocoa farmers and chocolate manufacturers alike, the Executive Director of Child Rights International (CRI) Mr. Bright Appiah has said.
“We are not against the price negotiation for the premium, but the intention of using the cocoa sustainability programme to compel chocolate companies to pay more is a policy mistake. If the sustainability programme for cocoa farmers is scrapped, it will have a damaging effects on the livelihoods of farmers and the entire cocoa sector.
“Over 120,000 children who were involved in child labour have been withdrawn in cocoa areas where CRI operates. CRI has collected data on over 270,000 famers who are getting some form of support through the sustainability programme,” Mr. Appiah said.
Ghana and Ivory Coast, which together produce about 60 percent of the world’s cocoa – the main ingredient used in the manufacturing of chocolate, in July this year met major buyers and producers in Accra and Abidjan respectively as they sought a say in determination of cocoa beans’ price.
The two countries jointly tabled a price of US$2,600 per tonne of cocoa effective next October, below which they will not sell the commodity. However, the slow uptake of the proposal is what is prompting Ghana and Ivory Coast to consider suspending their respective cocoa sustainability programme altogether.
Yves Kone, the Managing Director of Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry regulator, Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao – known as the CCC, commenting on the slow uptake of the two cocoa producing countries’ proposal said: “We cannot pretend that we are working with the farmers, investing in sustainability and refusing to pay the farmer. Chocolate-makers cannot claim that they’re sourcing cocoa sustainably and at the same time hold back their support for a plan that will considerably improve the livelihoods of small-scale producers”.
However, the programme is imperative for producers and farmers alike – hence the call by Child Rights International for the cocoa sector regulator not to tinker with it.
The chocolate industry relies largely on the programme to certify that their beans are not grown in protected forests or with forced labour of children.
It also deals with child protection and development issues, as well as enhances socio-economic activities of farmers during the main crop season and lean season.
Mr. Appiah said almost 60 percent of the livelihood for farmers during the off-season would be slashed, if the programme is cancelled. “It would be a policy error for government to use sustainability programmes as a means to engage with farmers,” he said.
He added that: “This arrangement even contradicts government’s policy on social development in the cocoa sector. Because government has introduced a system called the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring system in dealing with issues of social protection”.
Mr. Appiah further noted that government must develop systems for monitoring the delivery of other sustainability programmes and ensure transparency in distribution of premium to farmers. “There will be a need to engage the process with well thought-out policies on the disbursement of premium to farmers so as to build industry confidence. By doing so, industry will be willing to pay the required premium,” he said.