Major cocoa-producing countries Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which together produce about 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, have announced a boycott on meetings with industry. They say companies are deliberately pushing cocoa prices down, despite producer country efforts to add a Living Income Differential (LID) to cocoa to improve livelihoods of small farmers, most of whom live in extreme poverty. Since the producer governments set a minimum price in July 2022, companies have dramatically scaled down their purchases of cocoa from the countries. The two governments said they would block companies from accessing their sustainability programs if they did not resume cocoa purchasing by 20 November.
The boycott, announced 21 October 2022, meant that the two West African governments cancelled their planned participation in the annual World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) conference, held in Brussels on 26 and 27 October. The civil society platforms working on cocoa in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire issued a statement in support of the boycott, calling for prices that enable a living income for smallholder cocoa farmers; some West African civil society representatives also cancelled speaking slots on WCF panels. West African and European NGOs, throughout the WCF conference, repeatedly called on companies to change their purchasing practices to pay a higher price.
European policymakers have two opportunities to support this call. One is the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which is currently being debated by the European Parliament and Council, and should be amended to explicitly include the right to living income and living wages. Another is the Regulation on deforestation-free products: the European Parliament has added some text requiring companies to pay “fair remuneration” to “vulnerable stakeholders”, which European Member States should support in the ongoing Trilogues on the file.
Abuse should not be part of the business model for procuring an indulgence. Chocolate companies have promised uncountable times to tackle the child labour, deforestation and poverty that continue to plague the industry. As the new EU regulations progress, negotiators should keep in mind that, evidently, real change will not occur until strong binding rules are in place.