Continuation of the interview
R. : By promoting a fairer remuneration, would fair trade be the solution to boost the income of cocoa producers?
F. B. : This is obviously an option to consider. Nevertheless, in the present circumstances, fair trade remains a niche market that is marginal compared to conventional purchasing systems. The reason for this weakness is that the best remuneration associated with this type of exchange is always associated with additional requirements, particularly regarding environmental and traceability issues. However, these constraints have a cost, which must be supported by producers with limited financial resources. It is not surprising under these conditions that many of them never take the plunge. To really boost the incomes of cocoa farmers associated with fair trade, it would be necessary to show them the concrete benefits they could get out of this formula while accompanying them in their journey (certification, training, obtaining guarantees and credits to invest…) to upgrade. This is a long-term process, which must be supported by public authorities in particular and which is still far from being systematized.
R. : Speaking of public authorities, in order to generate maximum value over time within the local cocoa sectors, what State strategies should be preferred?
F. B. : Our small producers, who are economically weak, suffer from the vagaries of the market more than they benefit from it. To break this cycle, it would be necessary to encourage their systematic banking. This is how they will obtain the necessary credits to invest in their production tool and thus develop. It is under this condition in particular that traceability, already mentioned, can be significantly strengthened. This corresponds to the requirements of our time: consumers, increasingly aware of health and ethical issues, want to know what they are consuming. The current strong development of the « bean-to-bar »(3) also reflects this desire to reconnect with short circuits, transparency, raw products and the original craftmanship. As cocoa producers, we must of course take this into account, especially since these are « premium » products with higher margins. Little processing continues to be done on site. There is an obvious step up that needs to be done to the value chain. But even more importantly, the real reservoir of future growth and wealth lies in the strong potential of local consumption. This is the future of the cocoa sector in Africa: more local processing to serve more local consumption. A good marketing, for example, could do wonders by highlighting the nutritional qualities of chocolate, and produced by a whole ecosystem of dynamic African SMEs! It is by integrating all these levers of action that the continent’s cocoa sectors will be able to prosper in the long term.
Interview by Jacques Leroueil.
3- Unlike traditional chocolate and pastry makers, who do not make their own chocolate, « bean-to-bar » chocolate makers take care of all the steps involved in making a chocolate bar (roasting, crushing, winnowing, refining…).