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Foodensity op Instagram: “One of the biggest debates for the production of fine chocolate is…”

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One of the biggest debates for the production of fine chocolate is that on the type of cocoa. There are seemingly minor details on the commercial classification of the various cocoas:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Bulk cocoas – About 94% of the world’s cocoa production is classified as “bulk” cocoa. This type of cocoa has just a basic chocolate flavor, with no ancillary notes. However, this does not imply cocoa of inferior quality.⠀⠀⠀

Specialty cocoas – “Specialty” cocoas indicate a range that generally commands premium prices over bulk cocoas (from about 20% rising to double or even treble the bulk cocoa bean prices). They are not traded as a commodity but have their own supply chains which preserve the identity of the individual lots. These cocoas are from specific geographic origins, varieties, environment-friendly growing regimes, and purchased under schemes that benefit the growers.⠀⠀⠀

“Fine” or “flavor” cocoas – There is no agreed definition of “fine” or “flavor” cocoas except they are purchased at a premium price (as for the specialty cocoas) for their ancillary flavors that are described variously as fruity, floral, spicy, nutty, etc..⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

These distinctions explain consequent aspects in buying and tasting:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Fine or flavor cocoas necessarily fall under specialty cocoas for their high commercial value.

Specialty cocoas may include cocoas that cannot strictly be considered “fine” or “flavor” for lacking certain aromatic notes other than a great chocolaty base.⠀

In the right perspective, when a chocolate bar just tastes like “chocolate” (with zero defects like bitterness, astringency, and undesired acidity) it is actually an indicator of quality, not necessarily a “flat” or “boring” experience. As a matter of fact, some chocolate bars exist with exceptionally rich chocolate flavor backgrounds satisfying our cravings even more than some poorly-processed products from “rare” cocoa varieties.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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via Foodensity op Instagram: “One of the biggest debates for the production of fine chocolate is that on the type of cocoa. There are seemingly minor details on the…”

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A changing environment and climate.

josefrancisco1

A changing environment and climate

via Chocolate and agroforestry accelerate in El Salvador

 

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Chocolate Forever 8 Certification

Certification is a way to improve the farmers state of affairs, by providing them with additional (or at least stable) income and other privileges, conditional on their compliance with certain requirements. Such requirements are outlined in documents called standards or codes of conduct, which are used by auditing committees to randomly check farms. The certified product, which eventually finds its way to the shelves of supermarkets, informs the consumers with information, certificates also provide marketing opportunities for companies involved in branding of cocoa products.

AfbeeldingAt the moment there are four labels for sustainable cocoa and chocolate (not mentioning DIRECT CACAO here*) These are EKO, for organic cocoa; Max Havelaar, for Fairtrade cocoa; Rainforest Alliance, for nature conservation; and UTZ Certified, for farmers support. Each of these certifiers focuses on different aspects of sustainability and its own unique standards and approaches to rewarding farmers.

Dutch cocoa processors and cocoa chocolate manufacturers utilize these different schemes. Currently the focus is very much on UTZ Certified, which launched its Cocoa Program in 2007, with a focus on certification, training and farmer organisation. Through UTZ Certified, mulitnational corporations aim to realize their sustainable sourcing objectives. Many complicated elements surround certification. One burning issue, repeatedly mentioned in interviews and at multi-stakeholder meetings, is harmonisation of standards.

Afbeelding

Harmonisation of standards Each label has its own specific attention points, its own standards, its own system of rewards, its own traceability systems, and so on. The fact that there are several certificates, which all opetare differently, can cause confusion in the actual meaning behind a specific, label and the differences between the various labels. Moreover, it is unclear whether these labels can actually realise the claims they make. It is nessary to have such variety of labels for certifying more or less the same product and process?

The push to combine the efforts of EKO, Max Havelaar, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ in issuing certificates to farmer organisations originates from different actors: the Tropical Commodity Coalation, the Dutch Initiative for Sustainable Trade, and from industry players, such as Cargill. The certifiers gave indicated that they are interested to collaborate in the pre-competitive stage of certification (the producer side), where there are lot of similarities (e.g., how auditing takes place, or yheir involvement in capacity development for farmers). By joining forces the certifiers can, at the same time, invrease the efficiency of the certification process and improve their credibility. Joining forces in the marketing of the produce is more complicated, as certifiers sill seek to protect their commercial interests. Within this context, the fair trade organisation Max Havelaar shared this concern regarding competition among certification schemes:

Because every certifier wants to safeguard its own supply, there is a danger that ther will be a new competition between the certifiers about who will actually get the certified cocoa.

This quote illustrates the prevalent fear that UTZ CERTIFEID will eventually attract the farmers and their produce, because they enjoy the support of industry. This is not an unrealistic fear as the supply of certified cocoa is lagging far behind demend. Another issue of concern is whether farmers will be able to select the certification scheme for which they want to produce their cocoa.

Questions regarding harmonisation It is sad that the different labels for sustainable cocoa have an 80% overlap in their social and environmental criteria. Several questions often arise in discussions on the harmonisation of standards, for example: How can the different certification schemes be integrated? How can the four certifiers operate collectively, in order to certify as many farmers as possible? What are barriers or disadvantages involved in harmonisation? Does harmonisation of standards lead to weak compromises? Are there no alternative form of certification available that could make the process faster and cheaper? Should they be actively sought out?

…In order to cope with some of the challenges that the use of certification schemes generate, the different actors involved in the cocoa sector also build upon experiences with certification in other sectors. UTZ CERTIFIED builds upon its experience in coffee, where it is among the biggest certification programs in the world. Other learned from the research conducted on sustainable biomass. For example, Fair Food has used a document prepared by Cramer (2007) for testing a framework on sustainable biomass to explore alternative (cheaper) ways of certifying cocoa. In this document three different certification systems were compared: the track and trace system, the mass balance system, and negotiable certificates. Currently, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations are considering the mass balance system as an alternative way of certifying Fairtrade products. This system prescribes to stop the practice of segregated processing of Fairtrade cocoa and conventional cocoa. UTZ CERTIFIED allows both mass and segregation for certified cocoa.

Limits of certification Because certification is not sufficient for guaranteeing sufficient supply, it is combined with investments in farmer training, this called certification+

The concept of Certification+, introduced by Solidaridad and Mars, states that the premium provided by Certification is not meant to guarantee a living wage for farmers. By improving productivity and quality, farmers should be able to earn more for their cocoa and invest in improving their liveihood, especially in West Africa wher cocoa production is concentrated. Therefore, these parties claim to go beyond certification by improving productivity through providing better plant material and fertilizer, training, and financing. In addition, Solidaridad is improving support to farmers in producing countries by lobbying and by working to strengthen civil society.

NEXT TIME: Farmer training

 

 

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Chocolate Forever 7 Safeguarding supply

The risk that cocoa suppliers will not be able to meet the required demand is a serious threat to the cocoa sector. The trees that produce cocoa beans are generally old, are rooted in over-farmed soil, and are tended by poor farmers with little if any formal educaton. The majority of farmers are smallholders, which means that they grow cocoa as a cash crop on a small plot of land, along with food crops and occasionally also with other cash crops. From the income generated by these cash crops they pay their hospital bills, debts, their children’s school expenses. Farmers rarely have any remaining financial means to utilise for on-farm investments. Crop losses are a huge problem, as a large portion of the harvest is usually lost to pest and diseases. Money to invest in new plant material, fertilizer or pesticides is lacking; the know-how to apply it is scarce. Farmers often work by themselves and receive little support in terms of training, advice, or access to credit. In this context, exasperated by poor infrastructure and their marginal position farmers sometimes keep their children from school and allow them to help or work on the farm.

VSO Cadbury Cocoa partnership Ghana VSO Cadbury Cocoa partnershipBecause of these appalling conditions, the continuity of cocoa production is under threat. First, there is an exodus from the countryside as youngsters see no future there and seek other possibilities by migrating to the city. Additionally, crops like rubber, cassava, and oil palms have become more profitable for farmers. Cocoa production in West Africa shows a decreasing trend of 2% per year, while, at the same time, demand for cocoa products, including high quality chocolate, is expected to increase in the near future. The cocoa industry is concerned about these developments and faces a majpr challenge: how to assure that supply continues to meet demand.

In order to assure that farmers remain in the cocoa business and increase the quantity and quality of their production, industry partners are investing heavily in farmers. Multinational companies have their own initiatives, they are also increasingly collaborating to jointly tackle the problem of supply failure. Not only cocoa companies, but also goverments, financial institutions, NGOs, labour unions and certifiers have been joining forces to provide support to farmers. A example of such efforts is the international Cocoa Livelihoods Program. Thhis program focuses on enhancing farmer knowledge, improving farmer marketing skills on agriculturally diversified farms. The Dutch have positioned themselves as leaders in the proces of mainstreaming sustainable cocoa. It is estimated that Dutch companies will invest around $325 million in sustainable cocoa during the course of the next several years (accessed15 July 2010). In the Netherlands a number of industry players have united forces, together with goverment and members of civel society, realise the goal of sustainable cocoa and, addressing the risk of supplier failure, to improve yields and profitability for farmers. One of the results is the UTZ CERTIFIED Cocoa Program, established by several multinational companies.

Chocolate unwrapped

With this initiative they want to at least double the current yields of approximately 400 kg / ha by training farmers in modern farming techniques, using new plant material and increased use of fertilizer. They also want to increase dialogue with authorities to improve enabling factors. The program focuses on the largest producer countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ecuador. By focusing on capacity building in the source locations and providing farmer training, the program aims to improve the farmers’ productivity and the quality of their produce; which ultimately should be rewarded by the market, under the maxim: ‘Better price for better products’.

 

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Gender & Certified Value Chains.

This is what I learned and wanted to share after seeing the dvd received at the Origin Chocolate Event Amsterdam.

Global standard-setting organisations fro example, organic, Fair-Trade, Utz, 4C, Rainforest Alliance aim to improve the social, envirinmenttal, economic, and health and safety conditions for agricultural productions and processing. These organisations work to continuously improve their standards contributing to sustainable and inclusive value chain development.

The featured film captures key learning and experiences from a workshop on gender equity in global certified coffee, tea and cocoa value chains. It includes interviews with representatives from producer organisations, support services, standard setting organisations and certification bodies as well as the private sector.

Learning session in Kenia on gender & certified value chains.

What are the challenges?

If we look at like certification like organic, the standard that is audited by an organisation like Soil Association, we find that mainly it looks at the good agricultural practices. But when you look further, at the social aspects such as equity and non discrimination plus other social aspects they are not addressed in the standards. And until such aspects have been captured in the standards, thant’s the only written fact that they will be implemented uniformly across of the production sites, wheter in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania or anywhere else in the world.

So in fact that, as of now, various growers may come up with their own initiatives and implement but that may not be replicated in other growing sites across the various countries where certification is implemented.

“Social issues are not addressed adequately in many global standards.”

Local initiatives can be a source of learning for further development of standards.

Thank to Anna Lavan, research en development of the KIT, www.kit.nl  sharing me the DVD Gender&Certfied Value Chains.

Also I would like to share the following www.directcacao.org  DIRECT CACAO A new voice for fine cacao and chocolate.

Direct is a new organisation seeking to preserve and protect fien cacao through respect, value and mutual benefit for consumers and chocolate producers.

We believe that the only way to guarantee the future of fine cacao, and so the future of great fine chocolate, is by making sure that the farmers are properly rewarded for the cacao they produce. This can only be achieved through close links between the consumer, chocolate company and cacao farmer.

We aim to create a sustainable cycle based on quality and taste through short-chain Directly Traded fiencacao. We believe taht this is essential for preserving the environment, the livelihoods of farmer and for creating great tasting chocolate.

We NOT believe that ethical labeling schermes can achieve this and in fact can actually be detrimental to a fair and equitable trade in cacao.

Direct Cacao brings together chocolate makers and companies, chocolatiers, cacao growers and companies and independents to begin a new relationship based on a true respect for fine cacao.

 

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