The world's top cocoa producers, Ghana and Ivory Coast, are boycotting meetings in Brussels this week of the World Cocoa Foundation on cocoa sustainability. Authorities in the two West African countries accuse multinational chocolate companies and traders of blocking measures to improve cocoa farmers' incomes.
Ghana and Ivory Coast account for about two-thirds of global cocoa production, but farmers in those countries earn less than 6% of revenues in a chocolate industry valued at more than $100 billion a year.
Yaw Attah has been a cocoa farmer throughout his adult life in eastern Ghana. He tells VOA that international companies are living off the farmers’ toil, while leaving them to wallow in poverty.
"Being a cocoa farmer is a tough job, I won’t lie to you," he says. We used to have our children on the farms to help us, but now they have stopped us because they classify that as child labor. I don’t have enough money to employ more laborers."
Attah says Ghana’s government must also re-examine the price it pays to cocoa farmers. Early this month, Ghana set the guaranteed price paid to cocoa farmers at $1,248 per ton for the main crop of the 2022-23 season.
The price is lower than the $1.36 per kilogram set by Ivory Coast in September.
Fiifi Boafo, the spokesperson for Ghana’s cocoa regulatory body, COCOBOD, tells VOA the well-being of farmers remains paramount to both governments.
Regarding the boycott of the Brussels meeting, he says chocolate companies and cocoa traders must show commitment to improving farmers’ incomes.
“Clearly, someone is ensuring that the farmer continues to stay poor. How do you expect someone who is poor all the time to sustain an industry that is always making profit? Clearly, there is something that is not right and it’s not the first time that we’re going to talk about it. We have talked about it and we have not had result and there is the need for us to find different means of making a point for everyone to know that something is wrong,” he said.
Four civil society organizations in Ghana and Ivory Coast have thrown their weight behind the boycott, saying farmers have always been given a raw deal when it comes to pricing.
Obed Owusu-Addai is the campaigner at EcoCare Ghana, one of the organizations pushing for change.
“How can it be that in an industry of about $130 billion, the farmer only receives only 6% of the profit? We think it is unfair, we think it’s about time we began talking about pricing as the most important issue when it comes to cocoa sustainability,” he said.
The World Cocoa Foundation, a group representing 80% of the global market, including major chocolate companies such as Cargill, Olam, Barry Callebaut and Nestle, did not respond to a request for comment.