World Cocoa Conference 2024

Oxfam slams large chocolate companies at World Cocoa Conference

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Leticia Yankey is the founder of the first ladies-only cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Pic: Oxfam
Leticia Yankey is the founder of the first ladies-only cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Pic: Oxfam

Related tags Icco Cocoa Sustainability Oxfam

Against a backdrop of cocoa topping $11,000 per metric ton on the futures market for the first time last week, Oxfam says its experts will be highlighting the discrepancies in farmgate price at this week’s World Cocoa Conference (WCC) in Brussels (21-24 April).

According to a statement released this morning by the charity, chocolate giants have already raised prices for consumers to offset rising cocoa costs and, despite years of soaring profits and massive payouts to shareholders, have consistently resisted anything that could reduce their profit margins.

It will tell the WCC that new Oxfam analysis has found:

  • Lindt, Mondelēz, and Nestlé together raked in nearly $4 billion in profits from chocolate sales in 2023. Hershey’s confectionery profits totaled $2 billion last year.
  • The four corporations paid out on average 97% of their total net profits to shareholders in 2023.
  • The collective fortunes of the Ferrero and Mars families, who own the two biggest private chocolate corporations, surged to $160.9 billion during the same period. This is more than the combined GDPs of Ghana and Ivory Coast, which supply most cocoa beans.

In the statement Oxfam said: ‘Decades of low prices have made farmers poorer and hampered their ability to hire workers or invest in their farms, limiting bean yield. Old cocoa trees are particularly vulnerable to disease and extreme weather. Many farmers are abandoning cocoa for other crops or selling their land to illegal miners.’

And Ismael Pomasi, Chairman of Ghana’s Cocoa Abrabopa Association, said: "Nothing is more demotivating —all my hard work on the farm barely pays off. Between battling pests and the drought that is killing my cocoa trees, I'm really struggling. I wish I could afford irrigation. If the multibillion-dollar chocolate industry paid fair prices for cocoa, I could actually tackle these problems and make a decent living."

Oxfam’s Policy Advisor Bart Van Besien said: “It’s ironic - the cocoa price explosion could have been averted if corporations had paid farmers a fair price and helped them make their farms more resilient to extreme weather. And it’s hypocritical —chocolate giants are paying high prices now that the market demands it but have pushed back every single time that cocoa farmers have. The only way forward is fairly rewarding farmers for their hard work.”

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