Hershey & other chocolate companies using more certified cocoa, but African farmers still mired in poverty

Author: Marc Gunther, Guardian (UK), Published on: 14 July 2015

"Hershey's uses more certified sustainable cocoa, but farmers may not be seeing the benefits", 6 July 2015

Hershey’s, which sourced 30% of its cocoa from certified sustainable sources last year, expects to hit 50% in 2016 – a full year ahead of schedule – on its way to a goal of 100% certified cocoa by 2020...

The next question is how much of a difference this sustainable sourcing is making in the lives of cocoa farmers. Hershey’s, which had revenues of $7.4bn last year, won’t say how much of its profits have trickled down to suppliers, nor will it say how much business it does with each of its three nonprofit certifiers: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified.

Certification alone hasn’t proven sufficient to lift the incomes of cocoa farmers, who are still poor, according to Han De Groot, executive director of UTZ Certified... “Even with the highest premium paid for certified cocoa, farmers are way deep in poverty,” says Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum.  De Groot agrees.

...Hershey’s...also works with several partners...to support efforts aimed at helping farmers and their families in West Africa...[including to train] farmers on best agricultural, business and environmental practices, and...[to distribute] low-cost mobile phones to farmers...

The challenge for industry and activists alike is how to get more of the value of chocolate to the cocoa farmers.  Only one of Hershey’s certifiers, Fair Trade USA, actually guarantees a minimum price to cocoa growers....[currently] about 10% above the market price... Elan Emanuel, senior manager of cocoa supply for Fair Trade USA...acknowledges...that competing with other certifiers “can be a challenge for Fair Trade...”.

Put simply, we really don’t know whether certification – or the other farmer aid programs launched by Hershey’s and the rest of the industry – are doing enough to improve the lives of farmers... There’s no doubt that Hershey’s is trying – but trying isn’t succeeding. 

[also refers to Mars, Ferrero]

Read the full post here

Related companies: Ferrero Hershey Mars