The stark warning comes from Fortin Bley, head of Côte d’Ivoire's CANN cooperative.
Chocolate manufacturers will be told to invest in the future of cocoa farmers or risk losing a generation of workers at an event this week.
Fortin Bley, the head of Côte d’Ivoire’s CANN cooperative and chair of the Fairtrade West Africa Producer Network, will tell the London Chocolate Forum that the industry is facing “a watershed moment”.
He will warn attendees that, unless the international cocoa trade invests in empowering farmers to decide their own futures, it will risk losing a generation of cocoa growers.
Bley will tell the forum that cocoa communities urgently need development, especially in West Africa, where many farmers live on less than $2 a day.
Farming communities are blighted by child labour and often lack essential services such as clean water, electricity, adequate healthcare and education. Young adults who see no future in cocoa are switching to more profitable crops or migrating to urban areas in the hope of finding a more dependable livelihood, presenting the chocolate industry with a skills gap that it will need to fill. The average age of cocoa farmers in West Africa is already 51.
The factors have combined to create serious concerns about the long-term sustainability of the chocolate supply chain, with demand for cocoa booming but farmers increasingly vulnerable to shocks.
The Fairtrade Foundation’s cocoa supply chain manager suggested that the industry should follow the Fairtrade movement’s example in securing a sustainable future for Africa’s cocoa farmers.
Jon Walker said: “It’s simply wrong that cocoa farmers who grow one of our most indulgent treats are going hungry themselves. The cocoa industry should be the envy of other markets, with demand for its products growing year on year, as more and more people around the world can afford to indulge their taste for chocolate, but cocoa farmers must be empowered to reach a living income for a truly sustainable chocolate industry.
“Fairtrade supports empowerment of cocoa farmers. Many have turned to Fairtrade to address key social and environmental challenges. We’d like to work with more businesses to drive through long-lasting, impactful change so farmers can decide their own futures.”
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