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Organic cocoa prices not sufficient incentive to stimulate production

Crown of Holland, a processor of organic cocoa, which recently opened a 9,000-tonne organic and speciality cocoa plant in the Netherlands, has called for a rethink of how farmers can be incentivized to grow organic cocoa because premiums do not currently compensate the productivity shortfalls from not using pesticides and fertiliser.

According to the Dutch company, only around 1.5% of global cocoa supply is certified organic, but according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) website, demand is growing at a very strong pace. However, the company considers that the current price premium for organic beans of 1025% above the market price is not sufficient to compensate for lower yields, commenting that farmers using pesticides and fertiliser can reach yields of 0.71.5 tonnes per hectarewhereas organic farms typically yield 300-500 kg of cocoa beans per hectare.

Through the use of improved planting, pruning, fermenting and drying practices, organic yields could be increased up to 1 tonne per hectare, but these increases in productivity would still fall short of the pay-back farmers could get by simply using fertilizer and pesticides. In this context, organic cocoa farmers often also opt for Fairtrade certification, which adds another premium to the price. Currently, almost half of organic beans are sold as Fairtrade.

Organic cocoa comes mainly from Peru and the Dominican Republic, where efforts are under way to strengthen the national control system for organic products. According to the Dominican Republics Bureau for Organic Agriculture (OCAO), there are at present some 23,443 organic producers in the Dominican Republic farming on 166,200 certified organic acres: coffee, cocoa and bananas are the main organic products exported. Organic cocoa production constitutes around 25% of total cocoa production in the Dominican Republic .

Of the 21 countries listed by ICCO where certified organic cocoa producers are located, 10 are ACP countries (Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Belize, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Vanuatu, Haiti, Ghana and Cte dIvoire ). So Tom and Prncipe is now also seeking to move into fair-trade-certified production of organic cocoa, while efforts are taking place to develop organic cocoa production in Grenada, largely linked to a local chocolate producer. However, it is Latin American countries that at present dominate the supply of organic cocoa, mainly because the infrastructure for traceable organic production is more developed. Organic cocoa production tends to be concentrated in countries that produce smaller volumes, since it is easier to ensure traceability and transparency.

According to Euromonitor International, global organic chocolate confectionery sales reached US$734 million in 2012, with annual growth of 23% projected to 2018, when sales should reach US$886 million. They commented that Western Europe is the biggest market for organic chocolate, followed by North America and Australasia,, adding that sales are expected to grow fastest in the Middle East and Africa, Latin America and North America, but growing more slowly than in the period 2008 to 2012.