Cocoa Barometer 2020: No Meaningful Progress Made in 20 Years of Business Model That Ensures Poverty For Farmers, Communities

Cocoa Pods
Alexandre Brondino
Report: The Solutions Start With Government Regulation to Ensure Industry Pays Farmers A Living Income and Ends Human Rights Abuses, Including Over One Million Cases of Child Labor, and Deforestation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – December XX, 2020 -- After two decades of failed interventions across the cocoa sector, cocoa farming communities are still battling the effects of poverty, child labor and deforestation. That is the key finding of the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report published today. 

The report finds that the industry continues to rely on vague rhetoric and voluntary programs that fall far short of the mark, and is a rallying cry for civil society organizations (CSOs) and governments to move into legal measures and mandatory compliance for industry. 

Antonie C. Fountain, Cocoa Barometer co-author said “As a biennial review of sustainability in the cocoa sector, the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report provides stark details of how little positive impact current and past interventions are having for the farmers at the beginning of the supply chain. Twenty years into rhetoric, the challenges on the ground remain as large as ever. Poverty is still the daily reality for virtually all West African cocoa farmer families, child labor remains rife and old growth forests continue to be cleared to make way for cocoa production.”

Now is an important window of opportunity to move towards justice, as momentum for change is gathering across different stakeholders. Thanks to campaigning by CSOs, the last two years have seen an increasing number of chocolate companies asking for regulation; significant global actors like the EU are committed to putting legislation in place; and the world’s two largest producers of cocoa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, have formed a cartel to drive up the price for cocoa farmers.

“Coming out on the day that the legal case against Cargill and Nestle for child slavery in their supply chains is being heard at the US Supreme Court, the severity of ongoing problems described in the Barometer remains dire, as does the need for solutions outlined in the report,” said Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director of Green America.

The report finds that the last two decades of interventions have failed for three main reasons.

  • Regulatory efforts have only been voluntary, not mandatory, meaning that across the sector, actors are failing to do what they need to. Within the multitude of government-driven covenants, national multi-stakeholder platforms and sector-wide collaborations, there are no penalties for non-compliance nor enforcement to meet targets. Ironically, however, those at the bottom – cocoa farmers often living below the poverty line – do lose their sustainable cocoa certification if they do not comply. Whilst we’ve seen a significant increase in regulatory processes and commitments to due diligence, they are limited without accountability, transparency and equitable enforcement.


  • The underlying problems that exacerbate extreme poverty – including low cocoa prices, lack of infrastructure, and no transparency and accountability as you move higher in the supply chain – remain unchallenged and unsolved. There needs to be recognition that in its current form, the business model for high yields of cocoa means poverty for farmers and excessive profit for chocolate manufacturers. It’s time this changed.


  • Efforts to solve complex issues of injustice and unsustainability in the cocoa sector have not given farmers and CSO a seat at the table.  Instead of inviting farmers and civic society to take a respected seat at the decision-making table, problems have been assessed using a top-down industry-based approach. This serves the interests of industry and government, rather than the producer farmers and their communities.


The report makes three key recommendations:


  • Regulation that regulates companies, rather than penalizing the farmers. Recognizing that bad farming is not the problem, but rather a symptom of a deeply unfair system, the report advocates for systems change and regulation that creates an enabling environment. Current forms of certification and farm-based standards increase pressure on farmers: instead, we need laws that hold the powerful accountable, rather than laws which demand that farmers change. Compliance criteria are imbalanced and need restructuring so that companies are held accountable to due diligence systems.


  • Effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries. If the answer is creating an enabling environment, we need partnership agreements between producer and consumer countries that facilitate and finance this. Processes that set partnerships in motion should be inclusive and deliberative, ensuring that civil society and farmer groups have a respected voice at decision-making tables.


  • Deliver on a fair price for farmers. The single biggest positive impact for farmers and incentive for farming sustainably is delivering a fair price for the cocoa they produce. Cocoa and chocolate companies must find ways to redistribute value along the supply chain so that farmers are guaranteed a living income.


Sandra Sarkwah, Coordinator for the Ghana Civil-Society Cocoa Platform (GCCP), supports the publication of the Cocoa Barometer 2020 and said, “Efforts of sector players to change the story of farmers keep on beating about the bush when evidence presents to us the plight of farmers: low income from their hard work is a major threat to cocoa sustainability” she said. “Processors, chocolate manufacturing companies and retailers who earn a large chunk from the value chain must be fair to farmers by paying a living income and this must reach the farmer”. As recommended in the report, Sarkwah confirms “this will require the efforts of various actors, including civil society organisations in both producing and consuming countries, as well as strong farmer cooperatives to demand transparency and accountability for effective delivery of pricing policies for better farm gate prices for farmers”.


The full 2020 Cocoa Barometer report can be read here:




The  Cocoa  Barometer  is published biennially by a global consortium of civil society actors;  ABVV/Horval, Be Slavery Free, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT), Fair World Project, Fern, Green America, Hivos, INKOTA-netzwerk, International Labor Rights Forum, Mighty Earth, Oxfam America, Oxfam-Wereldwinkels, Rikolto, Solidaridad, Südwind Institut, Tropenbos International.


Editor’s note only:

The 2020 Cocoa Barometer, an Executive Summary, an FAQ, separate infographics and photographs of cocoa production can be found at


Media contact:

Antonie Fountain

Mob:(+31)06 242 765 17


In the US, Max Karlin

(703) 276-3255


Editor’s note only:

The 2020 Cocoa Barometer, an Executive Summary, an FAQ, separate infographics and photographs of cocoa production can be found at