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Chocolate Fair: the cocoa crisis under the glitter of the party

With chocolate dresses or virtuosos demonstrations by starred chefs, the chocolate fair opens Wednesday in Paris under the glitter for the gourmands' happiness, but in a context of exceptional struggle between cocoa producers and manufacturers.

Sponsored by Dominique Ouattara, the wife of the President of Côte d'Ivoire, the world's leading cocoa producer, the show, which has helped to star a generation of French chocolate masters and pastry chefs, is aimed primarily at wine lovers. chocolate and “chocoholics” of all ages.

Showcase of “accessible luxury” since its first edition in Paris in 1995, the show, declined in many other countries, has attempted to serve as a link between the greed of Western consumers and small planters, many of whom live under the poverty line of $ 1.20 a day, according to World Bank figures.

“This year, we wanted to highlight the importance of the cocoa producing countries that will all be present, from Côte d'Ivoire to Indonesia to Ghana or South America,” he said. to AFP Sylvie Douce, founder and organizer of the show. “The show is more about rejoicing, but inviting Mrs. Ouattara is symbolic, it means that the producing countries want to exist and we want to show their importance.”

Wednesday evening will be awarded the best producers of the year: they will receive an “International Cocoa Award” awarded by the show, combined with the CIRAD research center and the NGO Biodiversity International.

Cocoa harvest near Sinfra, Côte d'Ivoire, October 12, 2019 (AFP / Archives – ISSOUF SANOGO)

The fair opens this year in an exceptional context of confrontation between the first two producers, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, which represent 60% of the world cocoa production, and the world cocoa and industrial chocolate traders, who had tend to keep the added value for them.

In June, these two countries suspended the sale of the 2020/21 crops for several weeks in an attempt to impose on the markets and multinationals a minimum price that is more profitable and less linked to price volatility, which is not below 2.600. dollars a ton.

– “An important moment” –

After weeks of pressure, many giants in the sector, including the Swiss groups Barry Callebaut and Nestlé, have agreed to pay a decent income differential (DRD, name given to a farmer support mechanism), following announcements made at a meeting of the World Cocoa Foundation (forum that brings together multinationals) in Berlin last week.

“Despite this increase in the price floor, prices are still too low to have a decent standard of living in Côte d'Ivoire,” said Fatah Sadaoui of the NGO SumOfUs, which supports small producers.

This NGO was pleased to have also obtained the rallying of the French merchant Sucre and Denrées (SucDen) to the principle of better remuneration proposed by Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. SucDen did not confirm the information to AFP.

In Latin America, where cocoa is generally bought a bit more than in Africa, the West African initiative is viewed with great interest by producers.

“What is happening is very interesting, and is an important moment, because it is an attempt to rebalance power in the global cocoa sector,” says Abel Fernandez, a cocoa farmer in the Dominican Republic. leader of a Fair Trade-Max Havelaar fair trade cooperative.

“On average, in West Africa, cocoa producers receive only 60% of the basic export price because states apply a high tax, while in Latin America they receive 80% to 85% of the export price, “said the official to AFP.

“But we are still watching very closely what is developing in the coming weeks and months in West Africa, as this may lead us to question buyers for higher prices too” he added.

“Farmers' voices have to be heard around the world, otherwise traders would stop buying in Ivory Coast and Ghana,” Fatah Sadaoui adds.

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