A bittersweet piece of politics: The Cocoa Barometer Report and its Conclusion on the Cocoa Trade

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Every year, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) issues the so-called Cocoa Barometer, an enormously important review of the global cocoa trade. Here we show you what can be gathered from these reports, who is responsible for it and what the outcome of the current study is for 2018.

1.What is Cocoa barometer?

The Cocoa barometer is a piece of cocoa policy that is about 70 pages thick. Specifically, it is a report that examines certain aspects of the cocoa market and is published at irregular intervals across several years (the studies always cover longer periods and are very lengthy). Funded by Engagement Global (a service for development initiatives) and BMZ (the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), the report is published by 14 non-governmental organizations. Since it was first published in 2009, it has always dealt with cocoa cultivation in the broadest sense - from the bean to bar This study covers the entire supply and manufacturing chain taking a close look at the living and working conditions of cacao farmers as well as the environmental impacts associated with their cultivation. Over the years, a groundbreaking sustainability report has been compiled that not only concerns the cocoa processing industry, but also every cocoa enthusiast.

2. The cocoa barometer - who is behind it?

As already mentioned, the Cocoa Barometer is published by 14 non-governmental organizations and supported by the BMZ and Engagement Global. The NGOs that are promoting this report are:

  • VOICE: An international network of trade unions and NGOs that brings together the majority of civil society organizations in the cocoa sector. Focus: Human rights and environmental problems in the cocoa industry.
  • INKOTA: An association of various committed people and groups who work together for a fairer world. Focus: public relations work on development policy and raising awareness in Germany.
  • Stop the Traffik: An international organization that fights against human trafficking. Focus: Human trafficking through the food industry.
  • ABVV-Horval: An employee organization affiliated to the ABVV (Allgemeiner Belgischer Gewerkschaftsbund - Confederation of Belgian Trade Unions). Focus amongst others: the food industry.
  • FNV: The largest Dutch trade union. Focus: Work and income.
  • SÜDWIND: Institute for Economy and Ecumenism. Focus: the commitment for a fair global economy.
  • Green America: A society that focuses on a socially and ecologically sustainable society.
  • Oxfam: Oxfam is an international organization that works for a decent world without poverty. Focus: Food production and uncovering abuses in supply chains.
  • Public Eye: A research network that exposes human rights violations, particularly in Switzerland, caused by the government turning a blind eye. Focus: Combating corruption as well as illegal and illegitimate business practices that are harmful to people in other countries.
  • Solidaridad: An international network organization with partners all over the world. Focus: Sustainable production of raw materials and uncovering malpractices.
  • ILRF: A human rights organization that focuses on the dignity and justice of workers in the global economy.
  • EFFAT: An organization focused on building a network for the exchange of information between workers' representatives and organizations in the European cocoa and chocolate industry.
  • FERN: An NGO working for environmental and social justice. Focus: For a European Union at the service of the forests and the people.
  • Mighty Earth: A global campaign organization dedicated to protecting the environment. Focus: protecting threatened landscapes such as tropical rainforests, protecting the oceans and tackling climate change.


3. Cocoa barometer - what is there for 2018?

To be honest, the 2018 Cocoa Barometer is not a bittersweet piece of politics, but rather more of a bitter piece of politics. The 83-page Kakobarometer 2018 begins with the following sentences:

Due to the central importance of the region for cocoa cultivation and the great challenges facing the region, the authors have decided to focus on West Africa. The two thematic focal points of this barometer are the "guarantee of livelihoods" and "transparency and accountability".

This means that the Cocoa Barometer also concerns fairafric, as we produce in Ghana.

The investigations particularly affected the following areas and came to the following conclusions:

  • - Between September 2016 and February 2017 the cocoa price fell drastically ( the reason) was an oversupply of cocoa on the market due to a record harvest in Ivory Coast. As a result, the levels of poverty amongst many cocoa farmers increased - the income of cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast region fell by as much as 30-40%. On the other hand, the salary of cocoa farmers in West Africa was so low, also among certified growers, that 77% still live below the poverty line. For a living income, their salary would have to triple. The problems experienced by certified farmers themselves reveal the complexity of different certifications. As a result, it would be necessary to have a standardized certification system to guarantee an income above the poverty line.
  • Child labour: Although there has been a relative decline here, the number of children working in absolute terms has risen due to the expansion of cocoa cultivation. Currently, around 2.1 million children in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are engaged in cocoa farming. The promise of the chocolate industry to reduce the worst forms of child labour by 70% by 2020 will be absurdly missed.
  • Environmental degradation: The expansion of cocoa cultivation has led to an enormous destruction of the rainforest. Between 30% and 40% of cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire is illegally grown in nature reserves, most of which have previously been cleared. There are two major reasons for this: the lack of enforcement of environmental law by state authorities and the refusal of large chocolate manufacturers to acknowledge this problem and act accordingly.


The crucial demands of the Cocoa Barometer on the chocolate industry are therefore (the following text is quoted and can be found on page 71 of the Cocoa Barometer):

  • Chocolate companies should commit themselves to providing a viable income as a basic prerequisite for sustainability.
  • Sustainability Programmes should focus less on increasing cocoa yields and more on the income situation of farmers.
  •  Where necessary, companies should pay higher cocoa prices in the short term until longer-term solutions to the price problem are sought.
  •  Companies should report transparently on the impact of their sustainability projects.

Besides, the barometer calls on the governments of the cocoa-consuming countries to do the same:

  • To regulate the human rights due diligence of companies under the law
  • to take measures against increasing market concentration and the resulting imbalance of power to the disadvantage of cocoa farmers
  •  to modify competition law so that discussions on fair pricing are made possible

The barometer also calls on the governments of the cocoa-growing countries to do more:

  • More transparency and accountability for tax revenues and investments in the cocoa sector
  • To ensure the protection of forests and to reforest illegally deforested forests.
  • A holistic agricultural policy that also supports cocoa farmers in switching to other agricultural products.
  • A coordination of the cocoa policy between the most important producing countries, among other things to avoid an oversupply of cocoa on the market.

So what can you do? Take this knowledge out into the world! This is because in many cases, cheap cocoa and chocolate, which plunge many people into misfortune and ruin the environment, are simply bought out of ignorance. Let us break this cycle together so that chocolate tastes sweet again.