Cocoa farmers living on 74p per day deserve more

Tanoh Ahou

The Fairtrade Foundation’s new campaign calls on the UK Government and companies to ensure cocoa farmers earn living incomes by 2030 in line with the UN’s Global Goals to end poverty.

Cocoa farmers working in tough conditions are struggling on as little as 74p per day, well below the world’s extreme poverty line, and yet for around £1.86 per day, the average price of a large bar of chocolate, farmers could live a decent life, according to a new report launching Fairtrade Fortnight, (25 February –10 March).

The chocolate industry is worth £4billion in the UK. Despite this many cocoa farmers in West Africa, where 60% of cocoa is grown, are living in poverty and are unable to pay for essentials like food, send their children to school or buy medicine if they fall sick. Based on new research carried out by Fairtrade International and by The Living Income Community of Practice, the report, 'Craving change in chocolate: How to secure a living income for cocoa farmers' argues living incomes are key to ensuring the future sustainability of cocoa. See endnote for a list of studies.

To achieve this, the price farmers receive for their cocoa must increase and that is why in October 2019, Fairtrade is raising its Minimum Price and Premium. However, just 6% of cocoa globally is Fairtrade-certified and therefore the movement calls for collective action from the government, industry and consumers.

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and Fairtrade Patron, writes in the report’s foreword: 'Shameful as it is inexcusable, exploitation and poverty continue to hide under the seductive packaging of our favourite chocolate. All of us have a moral responsibility to act. We all – global citizens, businesses, governments – must do more.'

Communities and businesses across the UK are backing Fairtrade Fortnight, with support from Waitrose & Partners, the Co-op, Ben & Jerry’s, Divine Chocolate, Mars, Greggs, Starbucks and others who are all sourcing Fairtrade cocoa and by doing so they are helping farmers to sell more and with the new Minimum Price, they will benefit from a 20% increase in value.

Fairtrade Foundation’s 'She Deserves' campaign also reveals women cocoa farmers carry the greatest burden and yet get the least reward. It aims to raise awareness amongst consumers of the challenges facing them. They work in the fields, look after children, do all the chores and the lion’s share of labour involved in bringing cocoa crops to market but have fewer rights than men and rarely own land, therefore get even less of the profits from cocoa.

Michael Gidney, CEO Fairtrade Foundation, said: 'As a nation of chocolate lovers, it is shocking that the women who grow and harvest the cocoa that goes into our treats are barely able to put food on the table nor send their kids to school – the majority of us think the exploitation they suffer is unacceptable. We can all take action today by supporting this campaign and by putting Fairtrade chocolate in our shopping baskets.

'Everyone is entitled to a decent income, it is a human right. As a country we’ve signed up to end poverty by 2030, but that won’t happen unless people earn more for the work they do – so we’re calling on governments, businesses and the public to pledge to make living incomes a reality. Whatever happens with Brexit, our leaders must make sure trade deals put poverty reduction first. If that matters to you please sign our petition.'

The report outlines the problems facing farmers in West Africa, which range from deforestation to child labour. Despite huge investments in sustainability initiatives, we need to change the focus, through the Fairtrade Foundation’s detailed set of recommendations:

We call on the Government to show leadership:

  • Join the Living Income Task Force, a new initiative being created by the German government
  • Make living incomes a priority for UK aid
  • Incorporate living income into Government Business and Human Rights policies for after all a living income is a human right. 

We call on chocolate companies, traders and supermarkets to:

  • Commit to sourcing their cocoa on Fairtrade terms as a first step.
  • Commit to the goal of ensuring that cocoa farmers receive a living income by 2030.

The report also tells the stories of farmers who have benefitted from Fairtrade. Since joining a Fairtrade co-operative, Rosine Bekoin has seen her own income double and is now inspiring others in her community as role model, leading a Women’s Society which supports other women to use investment on top of cocoa sales, the Fairtrade Premium to set up enterprises that boost their incomes. Rosine says: ‘Fairtrade Premium encourages us, as women cocoa farmers, to be able to achieve certain things. We know that with Fairtrade there is a Premium waiting for us, and for each woman, you can do what is in your heart.’   

For more information on our Agenda for Action read the report.

Support Fairtrade Fortnight 2019

Notes to Editors

The key finding of the FI and The Living Income Community of Practice research estimates the living income to be approximately approx. £1.86 (US$2.50) per person per day in Côte d’Ivoire and approx. £1.60 (US$2.16) per person per day in Ghana.*

Read further on this including the full recommendations of the report and our entire Fairtrade Fortnight press pack.

* Estimated figures are based on best available evidence at the time of publication. Conversions into £ are approximations as they are based on 2018 exchange rate (exchange rates fluctuate therefore $ are most accurate).