Ivory Coast cocoa producers end Hershey chocolate war

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast’s cocoa producers have ended their row with Hershey’s after the United States (US) chocolate giant committed to paying a premium above the market price under an initiative to help lift the incomes of poor farmers, according to a letter to the firm.

Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s number one and two cocoa producers respectively, on Monday accused confectionery giants Hershey’s and Mars of sidestepping a deal to pay the living income differential (LID), a bonus of USD400 per tonne of cocoa, the raw material for chocolate.

Millions of small farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together grow 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, live in grinding poverty.

The LID is part of a programme run by the multinationals to certify that their chocolate is ethically produced – meeting standards of sustainability and free of child labour – allowing them to sell it at higher prices to Western consumers.

Ivory Coast’s Coffee Cacao Council (CCC) said on Friday it had lifted the suspension of Hershey’s sustainability certification programmes after the firm committed to paying the premium, according to a letter to the US company.

“This lifting of the suspension follows your final commitment to pay the LID,” CCC head Yves Kone wrote to Hershey’s.

Ivory Coast and neighbouring Ghana on Monday had launched an unprecedented media offensive against Hershey’s and Mars, accusing the chocolate titans of avoiding paying the LID after Hershey’s reportedly made a large cocoa purchase on the US futures market.

The two firms had denied the charges and assured that they supported the mechanism, imposed by Ivory Coast and Ghana in 2019.

In his letter, Kone indicated that lifting the suspension was decided following a video interview with Hershey officials on December 1, the day after the public denunciation.
The CCC hopes that “in the interest of producers, in your own interests and those of the cocoa sector, our organisation will no longer have to suspend the Hershey programmes in Ivory Coast again”, Kone wrote.

Cocoa pods in an Ivory Coast plantation. The world’s chocolate market is estimated to be worth more than USD100 billion but little of it trickles down to the farmers. PHOTO: AFP