That depends who you listen to. If you have been the papers these last few weeks you would be forgiven for thinking that we have a serious problem looming. If you listen to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) you could believe that it is business as usual and there is nothing to worry about. So what’s going on?
First of all, the papers are picking up on a story from Fairtrade reporting on, among other things, the fact that the average age of cocoa farmers (in West Africa at least) is high, at 51 years old. This is due to cocoa not earning the farmers very much money and so farmers are switching to more profitable commodities such as rubber and the children are moving to the cities to look for alternative jobs that pay better. Therefore, there is the double problem, increasing demand but with possibly reduced production that could lead to a shortage.
The ICCO issued a statement in response to say that there is no obvious crisis on the horizon, production varies from year to year. Some years there is a surplus, some years there is no enough. When demand increases the price will increase and therefore farmers will plant more trees to increase production to take advantage of the increased price from the increased demand.
While we are on the subject of the age of farmers, the average age of the UK farmer is 58, but that’s a blog for another day…
Hear the story from both sides in the links below.