Ben & Jerry’s says it is committed to “economic justice” for its cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire by aligning the amount it pays for cocoa in its ice cream with Fairtrade’s living income benchmark price .
The living income is calculated at $ 2.50 (£ 1.87) per day for cocoa farmers in this West African country. Most of the region’s cocoa farmers currently live in extreme poverty on less than a dollar a day, reports the Fairtrade Foundation.
In total, Ben & Jerry’s will pay $ 800,000 (£ 606,000) over the next year, on top of the Fairtrade premium price he already pays.
Ben & Jerry’s has stepped up its social activism this year, particularly in the United States where its headquarters are based. The company’s social media posts supporting Black Lives Matter were widely shared, they posted a “Justice ReMix’d” ice cream and campaigned for citizens to “vote for justice” in the presidential elections.
“We are committed to working for economic justice through our ice cream. There are so many threads in this story between climate resilience and colonialism and racism when you think about how the colonial world trading system worked and how much was extracted from countries, especially West Africa ” , said Cheryl, procurement manager for Ben & Jerry’s. Pinto.
Why don’t cocoa farmers earn a living income?
Although cocoa is the key ingredient in the $ 130 billion chocolate industry, the small farmers who grow it are among the poorest in the world.
One of the problems is how the cocoa is marketed. The governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which produce about 60 percent of the world’s cocoa, set prices in consultation with buyers.
“If you imagine the supply chain looking like an hourglass with consumers on one end and farmers on the other, these processing giants are in the middle, giving them enormous control over the price they pay. producers, ”says Dr Louisa Cox, Director of Impact. to the Fairtrade Foundation.
A consequence of this is the reality that child labor remains commonplace in cocoa supply chains.
“There are 1.6 million children working in the cocoa industry, 95% of whom do hazardous work. This is unacceptable in today’s world. We welcome this initiative from Ben & Jerry’s and hope it inspires others to join us as well, ”said Ben Greensmith, National Director of Chocolatier Tony’s Chocolonely in the UK.
Wider adoption is needed. In total, Fairtrade chocolate, most of which is not sold under decent income conditions, accounts for only 6% of the chocolate sold in the world.
The bittersweet cost of cocoa in 2020
This year, the Ivorian and Ghanaian governments have increased the price of cocoa by introducing a living income differential, a premium of $ 400 per tonne above the market price, which all cocoa buyers must pay. They predict that this should result in farmers receiving an average of $ 1.78 per kilogram.
However, industry experts believe it will only be a short-term victory, with the industry potentially seeking other sources of supply.
The new government legislation brought the market price closer to the Fairtrade Living Income benchmark price of $ 2.20 per kilogram, and Ben & Jerry’s decided to take the opportunity to close the gap for cocoa in their ice cream.
A living income is determined to be sufficient to provide decent housing and health care, clean water and education, as well as a small supplement for unforeseen events – such as a pandemic or the effects of climate change on crops. – helping to break the cycle of poverty.
Although raising prices is essential to lift farmers out of poverty, Fairtrade reports that two other main interventions are also essential.
“It’s a complicated calculation,” says Dr Cox of Fairtrade. “Pragmatic measures to work towards a living income include improving productivity and diversifying farmers’ incomes as well as increasing the price of cocoa. “
Ben & Jerry’s, which pays a Fairtrade Living Income price differential, adds about $ 133 per tonne to the government’s $ 400 per tonne. The company estimates that this will generate an additional $ 120 per farmer per year.
How the money is spent will be closely monitored by Fairtrade and independent auditors. The hope is that the farmers will use the extra money to invest in moving towards a living income and the evidence of this can be used to change the discourse on prices.
“Brands tend to focus on productivity and quality. They think that farmers just need to grow more crops because then they can sell more and earn more money. But the price is always so critical – if we don’t raise the prices, farmers will never get out of the cycle of poverty, ”says Pinto.
“You can’t talk about climate change and climate resilience without economic justice. A farmer needs to be able to feed herself and her family before feeding the world.
Ben & Jerry’s says the long-term plan is to bring subsistence income into their other global supply chains as well and has already started working on cocoa for its “chunks and swirls” and with Fairtrade on vanilla.