Cocoa: some premiums in store
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CTA. 1999. Cocoa: some premiums in store. Spore 80. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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The cocoa plant has travelled far and wide. After being cultivated for several centuries by the Mayan Indians in central America, it was introduced to Trinidad in 1525, and continued its voyage, as it were, against the trade winds. It was introduced...
The cocoa plant has travelled far and wide. After being cultivated for several centuries by the Mayan Indians in central America, it was introduced to Trinidad in 1525, and continued its voyage, as it were, against the trade winds. It was introduced to Sao Tomé in 1830, and to Ghana in 1879. It carried on further, setting up home in Cameroon, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire in particular. In all, more than 15 million people in ACP countries are now directly involved in cocoa cultivation. The early popularity of cocoa as a crop stems from the fact that anyone endowed with muscles and patience could start a plantation by partially clearing a few hectares of virgin forest and introducing some young plants. The first harvest comes after several years. It is only after thirty years that problems arise, or earlier if a plantation has not been properly maintained. On worn-out soils, pests and disease attack aged plants, and yields fall. Ageing cocoa plants are a serious problem in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana; between them, they account for more than half the world's output, and a gradual reduction in rainfall since 1950 has encouraged attacks by mirids which cause young cocoa pods to wither. A new calamity in the long list of 'black pod' diseases is Phytophthora megakarya, a particularly nasty fungus which has led to production losses of 50 % to 80 % in Cameroon and Nigeria; Ghana has been affected since 1998, and Côte d'Ivoire is expected to be hit soon. No choice but to rehabilitate? These problems have to dealt with head-on: they cannot be solved by leaving behind old plantations, preparing new virgin areas and planting seedlings; gaining access to new land is much too difficult. This means rehabilitation to ensure that of production does not require any more time nor additional space: regenerating with improved varieties which are more productive and disease-resistant, better husbandry, pesticides and regular care1. Many farmers cannot afford the expenses involved in intensifying production like this. They have to negotiate on their own with traders who keep 'farm-gate' prices for cocoa pods down to a minimum. Where once there used to be governmental support for producer cooperatives now there is none, for these are the days and the ways of the disengaging State. Furthermore, market regulatory bodies (such as the Stabilisation Board in Côte d'Ivoire or the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board) have been blown away by the winds of liberalisation. With their disappearance, many hopes have faded of being able to manipulate world markets ? by withholding part of the harvest from the market in order to force prices up, for example. The world market price for cocoa has stayed relatively stable, with only very gradual increases. Caught in a cleft stick like this, how can cocoa producers develop a sustainable model of production? Quality: fine, fair and organic options Some promising solutions are at hand. The road that leads from the cocoa pod to the chocolate bar is a long one, but the paths and interests of producers, traders, processors and consumers can sometimes converge. The market for bulk cocoa ? a commodity heavily used throughout the confectionery industry ? represents 95 % of the total market, and it is here that the major industrial processors are increasingly concerned about the lower standards of quality resulting from reduced State supervision and control. The processors are sorely tempted to take over the entire 'cocoa chain': building new factories in producer countries, buying direct from the producers, and assisting them with replanting programmes. All this would be good for their image, and their interests, and, indeed, not entirely bad for the producers. Other opportunities exist, no doubt more interesting in nature but more limited in scope, in more segmented slices of the market. The quality market for so-called 'fine chocolate' is an example, but the varieties which produce this are weak and low-yielding and are mainly grown on certain soils in Belize, Togo and Madagascar, for example. Another market is for cocoa with an 'organic' label, grown with the greatest respect for the environment. Yet another is for so-called Fair Trade cocoa (see Viewpoint, page 16) , which guarantees consumers that the producer has been paid a decent enough price to keep on producing. 'Fine' chocolates, 'organic' and 'fair' cocoa products ? or, better still, all three together ? can command a premium price which some Western consumers are prepared to pay. If producers are to conquer this market, they will need to organise themselves to provide the necessary finance and techniques for improving production and guaranteeing quality. Once organised on a broader front, they will have access to support services and will have a strong negotiating position. Of all the links in the cocoa chain, this is probably the one to watch in years to come. More information: Cocoa, Tropical Agriculturalist series G Mossu. CTA/Macmillan, 1992, 110 pp. ISBN 0 333 57076 6 CTA No. 428 - 10 credit points Cocoa G Wood and R Lass. Longman, 1989, 640 pp. ISBN 0 582 46532 1 CTA No. 493 ? 40 credit points Plantations, research, development 1998, Vol. 5 No. 6 Special issue on cocoa ISSN 1254-7670 CIRAD, 42, rue Scheffer, 75116 Paris, France Fax: +33 1 53 70 20 78 International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) 22 Berners Street, London W1P 3DB, United Kingdom Fax: +44 171 631 0114 Email: http://www.agricta.org/Sporeemail@example.com FLO International (Fair Trade Labelling Organisations) Poppelsdorfer Allee 17, DE - 531115 Bonn, Germany Fax: +49 228 242 1713 1 On March 1 1999, representatives of producer countries, cocoa and chocolate processors and the scientific community issued a solemn declaration to 'promote an international initiative to create a worldwide programme of research and development on sustainable cocoa cultivation'. This project is supervised by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO).
Organizations Affiliated to the AuthorsTechnical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation
- CTA Spore (English)