Cocoa pods in harvest. Picture: BUSINESSLIVE

MORE than 29.4-million Fairtrade-certified Cadbury Dairy Milk plain slabs have been sold in South Africa, generating a premium of $238,000 (about R2.1m) for small-scale farmers and producers in West Africa, Kraft Foods said this week.

The global snacks company was celebrating its first anniversary of having achieved local Fairtrade certification for its much-loved Cadbury Dairy Milk plain chocolate.

The Fairtrade certification system ensures better working and living conditions for farmers, farm workers and their communities by building relationships between consumers and producers that tackle inequalities in global trade and increase market access for smallholder producers.

More than 70% of the world’s cocoa beans are produced in Africa, from the Theobroma cacao tree. Theobroma is Greek for "food of the gods".

"Cadbury Diary Milk’s first anniversary of Fairtrade certification is a momentous milestone not only for South Africa’s confectionery industry, but for the cocoa producers of West Africa.

"We congratulate Cadbury Dairy Milk for being instrumental in the development of a Fairtrade market in South Africa through their commitment to sourcing Fairtrade cocoa; and in so doing demonstrating to local businesses and consumers how we can make Africa more equal and sustainable," Fairtrade Label South Africa business manager Arianna Baldo said.

Premiums from the chocolate sales have been reinvested into social projects in cocoa-producing communities, such as drilling boreholes and building schools, Kraft Foods said.

Farmers have also been able to invest in livestock and equipment. Communities have also received periodic training and education.

"Cadbury Dairy Milk and Fairtrade challenge consumers to shop with their hearts, live fair and to seek out products with the Fairtrade logo. By doing this they are contributing to the empowerment and sustainability of small-scale farmers," Kraft Foods senior brand manager of chocolate slabs, Tamsin Darroch, said.

The Fairtrade Mark was established in the early 1990s and about 7.5-million people across 60 developing countries benefit from the Fairtrade system.

With the growing shift in consumers’ social consciousness towards an interest in where and how the products they buy are sourced, companies are increasing the number of Fairtrade products on their shelves.

South African sales of Fairtrade products have increased threefold from R18.4m in 2010 to R73.2m last year, making South Africa the leading market for Fairtrade in the developing world.

Fairtrade focuses primarily on exports from developing countries such as coffee, cocoa, cotton, tea and wine.

Fairtrade Label South Africa executive director Boudewijn Goossens said: "South African consumers are voting with their rands and showing the world that consumers in emerging markets are eager to support a movement that represents social and environmental sustainability."

Also this week, Mondelez International unveiled "Cocoa Life" — the company’s largest cocoa sustainability effort to date. Mondelez is Kraft Foods’ snack-food spin-off.

Mondelez will invest $400m over the next 10 years to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and about 1-million people in cocoa-farming communities.

Cocoa Life will bring a $100m new investment to Côte d’Ivoire to help 75,000 farmers double their productivity.

Cocoa Life is based on Mondelez International’s Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in Ghana, India and the Dominican Republic.

In Ghana, the partnership has helped create a 20% increase in cocoa yields, a 200% increase in household incomes and an 80% increase in government-backed development projects in the first phases of the project between 2009 and last year.

Ghana is the second-largest cocoa-producing country in the world. After its neighbour Côte d’Ivoire, its cocoa industry accounts for 3.4% of the country’s gross domestic product and offers direct and indirect employment to 2-million people.

In terms of cocoa, only 30% of total volume produced is processed locally by companies such as Cargill and Barry Callebaut, with the remaining 70% exported as raw beans to Europe, the US and Asia.

Cocoa Life will collaborate with governments, civil society and suppliers with a mission to transform the cocoa supply chain. The company is already working with experts such as the United Nations Development Programme, World Wildlife Fund and Anti-Slavery International to develop a robust set of principles for success and ways to measure progress.

Despite the 2001 signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an international agreement aimed at ending forced child labour, the human cost of the world’s most seductive sweet remains high.

The 2010 film The Dark Side of Chocolate by Miki Mistrati and U Roberto Romano shone the spotlight on child labour and trafficking in West Africa where kids as young as seven work illegally in plantations, facing the dangerous job of cutting down and carrying heavy loads of cocoa, without pay.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, about 12,000 of the 200,000 children who work full-time on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire are likely victims of human trafficking and slavery.

Cocoa smuggling in West Africa remains an issue.

Despite efforts by sector bodies to deter illicit trade between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, it remains rife due to pricing modalities.

"Ghana pays a minimum of 70% of the CIF (cost, insurance and freight) export price to farmers — as set out by the government, but in the Ivory Coast it’s a much more flexible arrangement, where the price is driven by what a technocrat thinks should be paid to farmers," James Boateng, MD of Cadbury Ghana, said.

It is believed about 100,000 tons of beans are smuggled into Ghana per year.

Smuggling is not a new problem, but it spiked during last year’s civil war when Ivorian farmers shifted beans through to Ghana after a ban at the country’s two main export ports.

The boost in Ghana’s cocoa production between the 2009-10 season (632,000 tons) and the 2010-11 season, which came in at over 1-million tons, is largely believed to be on the back of intense smuggling activity, despite the government denying this.

Although the war is over, the Ivorian government has deployed extra border patrol agents to cocoa-growing towns in an effort to stamp out smuggling and it plans to reintroduce stabilised prices next season as part of a sector reform.