We’ve been watching the media reports with interest this week, as the ban on cocoa exports from the Ivory Coast caused the price of cocoa to rise. I’m not too concerned as we have good contracts in place for a few months yet, by which time, I suspect the situation will have resolved itself, at least from the cocoa point of view.
But it’s the cocoa farmers I am thinking about. They are always at risk of falling into the poverty trap, as the price they receive for their cocoa fluctuates without warning depending on demand. There’s not a great deal of support or incentive for them to invest in their farms, improve their output quality or quantity, when they simply don’t know whether they will have a market for it. The buying companies are not having much success in creating sustainability for these smallholders.
I feel proud of the way we have turned things around for the St Lucian farmers we work with. We now have 107 independent growers in our scheme, all of them benefiting from our high fixed price, direct “no middle men” trading, guaranteed purchase of all their crops and quality support from our cocoa-growing research.
We’re only a small player and we’re in a specific territory, but we’ve turned around cocoa growing in St Lucia. Five years ago, it was on its knees, and now it’s a thriving industry again. Fair prices and prompt payment. It could be a repeatable model. And it definitely throws down the gauntlet to the big boys in cocoa buying.