FCIA members rely on quality ingredients to produce fine chocolate products. For cocoa, Latin America produces some of the best flavor beans. West African and Southeast Asian beans, however, are also included in many fine chocolate recipes.
Cocoa is grown primarily by small scale, family farmers in the tropics. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Fairtrade America's Hans Theyer described the difficult working conditions on cocoa farms. Farmers are often poorly supported, underpaid and typically have limited connection with the end market.
As part of a new strategic plan, FCIA is developing partnerships with cocoa sustainability programs in Latin America and West Africa to address some of these problems. Public-private partnership programs are designed to improve cocoa quality and market linkages while ensuring better farming conditions.
During the FCIA Elevate Chocolate Event in June, FCIA was honored to sign two important cocoa partnership agreements. The first agreement was with the "European Committee for Training Agriculture" or "CEFA" project in Ecuador. CEFA is an Italian organization, funded by the European Union, to strengthen farmer organizations and best practices at the farm. Working with Canopy Bridge, another non-profit organization, CEFA provides training to thousands of fine cacao farmers seeking direct commercial relationships with premium chocolate companies.
The second agreement was with the "Maximizing Opportunities for Cacao Activity" or "MOCA" project in Cote d'Ivoire. MOCA is funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by an organization called Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). Although Cote d'Ivoire is not traditionally considered a "fine flavor" origin, the MOCA project will improve bean quality on Ivoirian farms through better post harvest practices. This is a win for farmers and the chocolate industry.
What will be the impact of these partnerships? We asked this question to an organization working in Central America that recently attended the FCIA Elevate Chocolate Event. They reported receiving more than 25 new company contacts through the FCIA network. Prospective buyers requested 20+ cocoa samples from the program. This is a great first step in shortening the supply chain, securing quality and consistent supply of beans, while providing training and support for cocoa farmers.
For more information on how your company can participate in these types of programs or join FCIA's cocoa supply chain committee, please contact Bill Guyton.