These African Countries Are Famous For Chocolate

Image by Jurgen Brandes, Pixabay

Let’s be candid here, chocolate in all its forms, (bars, sweets, cakes, ice cream, mochas) is a people’s favorite, enjoyed across ages, incomes, ethnicities, and regions. If you are a chocoholic like me then chocolate is very intimate and close to your heart. More importantly, it’s a crop grown in distant places by people many of us will probably never meet and harvested from fruits that some of us do not know of. Truth be told, every chocolate bar you taste is very likely a snapshot of the lives of those cocoa farmers in Africa breaking their backs so that you can experience that rich, inebriating sensation when the chocolate ingredients flood and melt slowly into your mouth. Well, guess what? Africa is famous and home to some of the largest producers of cocoa!

Ghana And Ivory Coast Are The Most Famous And Leading Giants Of Cocoa Supply In The World.

Cocoa beans, Ghana

But Cocoa isn’t chocolate is it? Well, it’s no rocket science, you just can’t make chocolate without cocoa beans! It is the essential ingredient for our chocolate. And while Switzerland is the country famous for chocolate and home to many famous chocolate brands out there, four West African countries: The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon make up for 70% of the world’s Cocoa beans. This is nearly 2/3 of the world’s cocoa supply.

Ghana is the second-largest supplier of cocoa to the global market; the cocoa beans from Ghana make up about 25 percent of the global supply. Together with the Ivory Coast, they are by far the two largest producers of cocoa: together they cultivate more than half of the world´s cocoa.

It’s not just Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire who can boast the best land for cocoa plantations, other countries like Uganda and Togo are also in the top 15 cocoa producers worldwide.

Madagascar is also famous for high-quality chocolate and vanilla, comes in at 20th, producing just 11,000 tonnes of cocoa a year — though a lot of this is used in single-origin or luxury chocolates in the country itself.

It is fascinating to imagine that nearly all the chocolate treats that you have tasted, or seen on the supermarket shelves, or bought and wrapped up for a loved one, most certainly contain cocoa from one of these African countries.

So Why Aren’t African Cocoa Farmers Wealthy?

Despite being famous for large Cocoa production, their significant contribution, and prominence to the chocolate industry, many of the chocolate farmers are living in poverty. They reside in mud houses with no electricity and earn a per capita daily income of $0.40-$0.45. This amounts to an annual net income of $983.12-$2627.81 and accounts for two-thirds of cocoa farmers’ household income.

And you can’t help but ruminate about why they can’t extract higher prices for their raw materials and control more valuable areas of the supply chain?

Well here is four reasons why.

1. They are locked in a colonial-style relationship with the world’s chocolate manufacturers. The countries supply raw materials only to import the finished goods! This is mainly because of the high cost of prices of other inputs needed for chocolate production, ie high electricity cost. Countries like Ghana have no sizable dairy industry, forcing them to import milk.

2. Few people Consume chocolate. In comparison to the rest of the world, especially the European countries, Africa has relatively few consumers of chocolate, posing huge obstacles for the entrepreneurs who have tried to make chocolate in Africa. High manufacturing costs also undermine entrepreneurs’ ability to produce chocolate. “It’s hard to manufacture at origin,” says Victoria Crandall, a Lagos-based former commodities analyst for five years in Ivory Coast. “Your production costs are always going to be more than in Europe or the U.S.” Manufacturers, she says, stay close to their consumers, which means the Westerners who can afford chocolate.

3. Cocoa farming is linked with environmental degradation, child labor, and grinding poverty.

4. Poor perception of farmers. Frimpong Kwaku, Ghana’s coordinator for the Farmgate Cocoa Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to professionalizing cocoa for small-scale farmers said at the World Cocoa Conference, convened by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) in late April, that “farmers must be seen as equal partners, not only as the group needing the most assistance but as decision-makers, as important as all the others who make chocolate possible.”

an image for of a an african cocoa farmer in Ghana, one of the african countries famous for Cocoa Production and Chocolate.
Cocoa farmer, Ghana

Protection of the African Cocoa farmers (where does the solution lie?)

We are living in an era where people are more aware and informed about the products they consume. Nowadays there is a shift in consumerism towards business with more transparent practices and fair trade practices. Nongovernmental organizations have also ratcheted up the pressure on manufacturers by exposing the darker side of chocolate and most of the big chocolate makers have responded with bold-sounding initiatives. It goes without saying that chocolate makers should worry that their supply of Cocoa could dry up if farmers are impoverished.

Mars has committed to spending $1 billion over 10 years on its Cocoa for Generations program, which, it says, will fundamentally overhaul a supply chain it admits is broken. Barry Callebaut, (a cocoa processor and chocolate manufacturer) has launched a Forever Chocolate initiative, which aims to hit four audited targets by 2025: lift 500,000 farmers out of poverty, reduce child labor to zero, become carbon- and forest-positive, and have fully sustainable ingredients.

If the overarching goal is alleviating poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day adjusted for prices, vice president at Barry Callebaut, Debenham, has concluded that the key is diversification away from chocolate. Raising yields, say, experts, is not the whole solution because if too many farmers are successful, the aggregate output will rise and prices inevitably fall. In 2017, cocoa prices tumbled nearly 40%, a disaster for farmers blamed partly on surging production in Ivory Coast.

Instead, Barry Callebaut has collected data from 230,000 cocoa farmers and is offering tailor-made business plans to help them increase income by growing vegetables, making soap, selling honey, or keeping livestock.

In 2001, companies including Mars, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, and Nestlé expressed their collective commitment to combat child labor in cocoa-growing communities in West Africa through their support of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an international agreement that was aimed at reducing the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sector in Ivory Coast and Ghana by 70 percent by 2020.

Four ways you can show support and transform the lives ‘behind the scenes’ as a consumer.

Are you aware that as a consumer you have the power to support and change the lives of not just the cocoa farmers in Africa but all cocoa farmers, stop child labor and ensure your favorite chocolate brand is being ethical in its production process?

Here are four ways how

  • Eat more dark chocolate. Yeah, that is right. Not only does dark chocolate possess enormous health benefits, but the darker the chocolate is, the higher the cocoa content, and that has a beneficial effect on the supply and demand factor. In other words, if consumers demand products with more cocoa, more of the crop could be sold and more money could, potentially, trickle down to a farmer or farming cooperative.
  • Engage with chocolate companies and local government. Scrutinize, question, and write to their representatives. Probe them on what actions they are taking to end child labor in their products, or how are they assisting in solving the structural poverty problem.
  • You can also show support to the Craft chocolate market. Craft chocolate is chocolate made from raw cacao beans sourced transparently and made into chocolate on a small scale, with a strong emphasis on the inherent flavor of the beans. Craft chocolate focuses purely on quality and traceability. Chocolate makers who practice craft chocolate making use high-quality cacao, carefully harvested and processed from the world’s most flavorful varietals. They also want to make sure that the high-quality cacao they use is sourced from people, not places. The ideal of craft chocolate is not just knowing your chocolate maker, but also the farmers and processes behind the cacao beans going into that chocolate bar or bonbon. These efforts to source directly from farmers, farmer cooperatives, and smaller bean traders — and pay a premium price for higher-quality cocoa — could be another path to increasing value for farmers.

Have any more thoughts on how consumers can make a difference and transform lives in the chocolate-making industry? Comment below.

If you wish to learn more about the gems of Africa, follow this link to learn about the seven natural wonders of Africa.



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Naima Mwatsahu

There will be obstacles, they will be doubts, they will be mistakes. But the only person/thing standing against you and your success is you. Fight for it.