Mars Chocolate and Fairtrade International this week announced a new agreement to introduce the first Fairtrade labelled Mars product and to work together to enable farmers to have sustainable livelihoods through and substantially increased productivity. As part of the initial phase of the agreement, the first Mars product to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark will be Maltesers®, to appear in stores in 2012 in Ireland and the UK, a move that will contribute more than US$1 million annually in Fairtrade Premium funds for cocoa farmers to invest in their farms, business organizations and communities.
Over the long-term, Mars will explore how best to scale up its purchases of Fairtrade cocoa, and will support Fairtrade’s continued efforts to develop measures that would allow more confectionery companies to increase their commitments to purchase more Fairtrade cocoa with the aim of impacting the lives of more cocoa farmers than ever before.
“We’re really pleased to be one of the first markets to implement this global agreement with Fairtrade, starting with Maltesers, one of Ireland’s biggest and much loved confectionery products” said Betty Quigley, Chocolate Category Director, Mars Ireland. “This global agreement is a big step towards fulfilling our common goal of empowering farmers to build sustainable livelihoods and we’re excited to work with Fairtrade on ways to enable certification & sustainability for the whole cocoa sector. This commitment is our recognition of Fairtrade’s history of dedication to smallholder farmers and their efforts to enable farmer productivity and income improvements.”
In addition, Fairtrade and Mars will work to take advantage of their common interests and expertise to explore how to improve the productivity, quality, labour and community development benefits they can bring to farmers. Cocoa farmers stand to benefit immensely from the partners’ combined experience – Mars’ expertise in technical support to improve yield and Fairtrade’s expertise in building farmer organizations.
Peter Gaynor, Executive Director, Fairtrade Ireland says “This is really good news for cocoa farmers. More than anything else what small farmers need is the news that they will have longer-term contracts for the purchase of their cocoa that give them the confidence to invest for the future. This longer term relationship at predictable prices and with a little extra is what will make the difference for them in the future.”Current annual world production of cocoa is around 3.5 million metric tons, and by 2020 the chocolate confectionery industry will need at least 4.5 million metric tons. To satisfy demand, cocoa farmers need industry support to invest in overcoming the challenges of ageing cocoa trees, low productivity and lack of confidence in cocoa farming among the young. Yet as of 2009, certified cocoa represented just over 1% of total purchases.
Mars was the first major confectionery company to commit to purchasing only certified cocoa. In the future, demand for certified cocoa must be met by an efficient, effective and reliable system of farmer training, auditing and supply chain management. Further, a much greater proportion will need to be certified by 2020 to allow the market to bear additional large-scale certified purchasing commitments, and, more importantly, to have a positive impact on many more of the 5 to 6 million farmers who cultivate cocoa.
Both Mars and Fairtrade believe that empowering farmers to drive change is the most effective way to achieve true sustainability. Fairtrade is working with tens of thousands of cocoa farmers in West Africa and, with the additional income from the Fairtrade Premium, Fairtrade farmers’ groups have hired agronomists, invested in farm-level productivity and built warehousing and processing facilities. They are funding community development by providing clean water, free health insurance and scholarships for children.
Michael Nkonu, Director of Fairtrade Africa, which represents farmers and producers across Africa, says: “We’ve been working hard to support and strengthen our networks of Fairtrade certified cocoa farmers in West Africa. Many farmers in the Ivory Coast region are still struggling to re-establish their lives and build up their farms following the recent troubles. This agreement couldn’t be more timely, and will help enable a better future for farmers.”
So very soon more of our favourite and familiar chocolate in Thurles shops will carry the FAIRTRADE mark, allowing even more Thurles people to support Fairtrade everyday.