March 7, 2021

The war of the chocolate giants | Economy

Hot chocolate is served at the hotel reception, of course; and in the room, open after hours of conversation, tension and disappointment are breathed. The representatives of the large multinationals and the brokers of chocolate have vanished and those most responsible for the cocoa sector in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire appear extinguished. "We have told them our mechanism and they have understood it," vaguely tries to explain Yves Kone Brahima, director of the Ivorian body that regulates the distribution of cocoa, the Coffee and Cocoa Council. But there is no agreement.

Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, from whose shores it leaves sailing more than 60% of the cocoa consumed in the whole planet, they have hit the table and want to change the rules of the game. On June 11 they announced that they will suspend the sale of cocoa for the next campaign (2020-2021) if a minimum price of 2,300 euros per ton is not established.

Faced with the ultimatum, the main players of the international market have come this week to the appointment of Abidjan, the old Ivorian capital, to negotiate with the regulatory bodies of both countries: the Ghana Cocoa Board and the Coffee and Cocoa Council of the Ivory Coast . Without fruits. The future of chocolate it is in the air: the whole world is gambling consumption; Ghana and Ivory Coast, the survival of their farmers.

The representatives of Mars, Barry Callebaut, Mondelez, Olam, SucDen, Hershey, Cargill, Bloomer Chocolate or Touton, present in Abidjan, leave the meeting in silence. Between corridors, several officers acknowledge that they do not agree with the imposition or with the mechanism proposed. Only Mars and Cargill express some support for the initiative of the two African countries, albeit vaguely. Speaking to EL PAÍS, a Cargill spokesperson responds that "the discussions have been positive and constructive", that they will continue "talking with the authorities, with the consumers and with the agents", but that they expect "more details from the governments to understand in detail how the implementation will be ".

For the first time, the two big producers have decided to make a common front to demand that the benefits of the market reach the plantations. The goal is, according to the Ghana Cocoa Board director, Joseph Boaheen Aidoo, "to ensure worthy benefits for farmers" The farmers who grow the plantations live in extreme poverty. In an unprecedented joint venture, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire want to use the strength of their production to influence the selling price. "It's not a matter of agreeing, it's like going to the Abidjan market here: you pay the price that the vendors tell you," ditches Aidoo.

Risky bet

The bet is strong and risky. Cocoa is one of the pillars of the Ivorian economy. A quarter of its population depends on the sector to survive. One million small farmers they plant, collect, open the fruit and dry their seeds, but there are more than 6 million people who eat thanks to this activity. In addition, both in times of war and in times of peace, it remains a strategic sector. On the other side of the scale, demand at the international level is rising and the union between the two neighbors favors its position. Historical enemies, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, moved closer together after the hard 2016 crisis and now face the chocolate giants.

From the course of the Ivorian fields to the tablets that are consumed in the West (Europe leads the classification of consumers) an industry of almost 90,000 million euros is nourished, from which the distributors and manufacturers remain 75% of the profits, while that farmers and producers perceive only between 4 and 6%. The pulse remains open.

(tagsToTranslate) war (t) giant (t) chocolate (t) ivory coast (t) ghana (t) plant (t) impose (t) multinational (t) pay (t) price (t) minimum

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