Even doubled income for farmers won't make cocoa sustainable

Barry Parkin, head of procurement for Mars and chair of the World Cocoa Foundation, recently acknowledged how much farther current sustainability efforts in the cocoa sector have to go before farmers receive anything resembling a living income.

Speaking at the World Cocoa Conference 2016, he highlighted the need to triple or quadruple farmers' incomes to make cocoa farming an attractive proposition for the next generation.

"We can double or more the yield, we can double the income - which is a good start - but it's not yet sustainable. To get to sustainable we've got to triple or quadruple the income. That's the harsh reality... to get to a living income, a level where farmers are thriving, where the next generation want to be farms, it's a big big step."

- Barry Parkin, Global Procurement Head, Mars

The current price of cocoa is around $3,000 a tonne. If you consider the long term price of cocoa, tripling or quadrupling it isn't inconceivable. Adjusted for inflation, the average long term price over the last 150 years has been about $6,000 a tonne. The last three decades have been characterised by very low prices, historically speaking.

Real cocoa prices (2013 values), 1850-2013 from Cocoa Barometer 2015 report

As Barry Parkins' statement suggests, this goes beyond what can be achieved by farmer training and improvements to farm productivity. We need to not only redistribute value through the supply chain, we need to put more value into the supply chain in the first place and increase the price of cocoa and chocolate.