First shipment of UTZ cocoa reaches Europe

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cocoa, Ghana

An initiative to improve the agricultural, environmental and social aspects of sourcing cocoa from West Africa achieved has achieved a milestone, as the first beans have arrived in Europe for processing.

The UTZ Certified Cocoa plan, in cooperation with Solidaridad, was set up by a number of big players in the cocoa sector, including Mars, Nestle, Heinz Benelux, Cargill, Ecom and Dutch retailer Ahold, as well as a number of development and environmental organisations.

The plan looks to economic sustainability, as well as social and environmental practices, and includes a training programme for farmers. The initial target has been West Africa, since 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast and 20 per cent from Ghana – but the quality and productivity of cocoa production has been seriously undermined by disease, bad farm maintenance and poor agricultural and economic infrastructure.

The first shipment to reach European shores arrived in Amsterdam last week, and is destined for processing by Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate.

At the moment Cargill is the only company shipping UTZ certified cocoa, as two of the cooperatives it has been working with were the first to achieved certification in September. The harvest is now ongoing and Cargill has signalled that as more is delivered over the coming months, certified beans will be used across its whole product portfolio.

Harold Poelma, managing director of Cocoa for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate said: “We currently have 12 other co-operatives moving towards certification, in which we are running 150 farmer training programmes, rising to 300 next year. As these co-operatives become certified they will contribute to the anticipated target of 10,000 tonnes of certified beans in 2010.”

Poelma added that initial analysis has shown the cocoa beans’ quantity to be “very good”.

“It is too early to be specific about increased yield, but on past experience we can expect a productivity increase of at least 30 per cent as a result of the training that farmers have undertaken.”

The first certifications for the Cargill plantations came at the end of an eight month programme that has involved training 1,590 farmers in responsible and sustainable agriculture practices.

Daan de Vries, programme manager for cocoa at UTZ Certified, told FoodNavigator.com that cocoa from other partners in the programme is expected to become available soon. Ecom has been working with one cooperative that has recently been audited.

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