Producing what they don’t consume

West African farmers rarely consume the finished product despite producing the largest proportion of the cocoa beans. The video below shows N’Da Alphonse, an Ivory Coast farmer who has never seen or tasted the finished product.

The inaccessibility that West African farmers experience, as seen in this video, serves a reminder that despite providing the raw materials to fuel the industry, farmers remain marginalized from the finished product. The last line said by the workers in the video perfectly summarizes the injustice:

“We complain because growing cocoa is hard work. Now we enjoy the result. What a privilege to taste.”

This lack of access to chocolate is a common theme among West African producers and their respective countries. For example, Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa beans capturing 18.7% of world share (Leissle 80). Despite this, Ghana’s yearly chocolate consumption is 0.5kg per capita, which is extremely low compared to European countries like Switzerland who consume 5.7kg per capita and the United States where consumption is 2.3kg per capita (“The Challenges Facing West Africa’s” 1). Why is it the case that Ghana, like other West African countries, has low chocolate consumption?

One commonly cited reason is the economic constraints that prevent West African populations from consuming chocolate (Leissle 84). The daily minimum wage in Ghana is 10.65 Ghanaian Cedis (GHS), which is roughly $1.91.The average cost of a chocolate bar in Ghana is 5.84 GHs (Haden 1 ). This means that buying a chocolate bar requires a Ghanaian to set aside 54.84% of a days salary. To put this into perspective, the average daily minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour and the average cost of a chocolate bar is $1.59. Comparatively, a U.S worker needs to work around 13 minutes to be able to afford a chocolate bar. The differences in economic constraints are quite evident.

In recent years, this lack of local consumption has come to the attention of the Ghanaian government as well as to entrepreneurs. What are these actors doing to increase chocolate consumption in the area?

School Feeding Programme

In September of 2018, the Ghanaian government announced that chocolate drinks would be included in the school feeding programmes worldwide. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, believes this program will expand the local appetite for chocolate. Dr. Owusu affirms that the consumption of a food item is a result of developed taste and preference. This program would seek to introduce young kids to the taste of chocolate from an early age (“Cocoa Drink Now Part” 1).

Niche Chocolate

Niche chocolate is an entrepreneurial solution to the low consumption levels of chocolate seen in Ghana and other West African countries. The company was founded on the premise of producing chocolate locally that is also accessible to the Ghanaian population. Niche provides high-quality chocolates at affordable prices. This effort, in turn, seeks to eliminate the economic constraint that historically marginalized West Africans from chocolate consumption (“Niche Cocoa to Increase” 1).

World Cocoa Day

The Ghana Cocoa Board was founded on the premise of supporting and increasing production, and processing and retailing quality chocolate among other products in Ghana. This board launched a World Cocoa Day in Ghana in an effort to increase local consumption of chocolate through a marketing campaign. The iteration of the event in 2017, featured the president of Ghana who thanked farmers in the region for their hard work that has kept this cash crop growing (“President Akufo-Addo” 1). The visibility given to chocolate and to this event was a means to market the economic and social importance it holds in Ghana.

The three distinct propositions explained are a good step towards spreading the desire for local community members to consume chocolate. However, local consumption in the case of schools, may not be the best approach. Primarily because chocolate does not have the highest nutritional value. The Ghanaian government should consider investigating whether chocolate can be given to young kids on a daily basis. Furthermore, the government should provide further insight into what chocolate products are being introduced into the school programme. With regards to the company Niche, it is clearly an innovative company that is having a favorable impact in Ghana. Niche is increasing processing capacity in the region while maintaining fair pricing to capture the local market. In the coming years, we may start to see the spillover effects of lowering chocolate prices for locals in increased consumption levels. It is important for farmers and the populations in the countries which they reside to not be marginalized from the consumption of chocolate.

The process of harvesting cocoa beans is a labor-intensive one but as the farmer said in the beginning video one that yields an end product that is  “a privilege to taste.” For this very reason, it is important that Ghana and the other major West African countries make it an effort to promote the local consumption of the cocoa crop.

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources

“Cocoa Drink Now Part Of School Feeding Programme.” Modern Ghana, Modern Ghana, 21 Mar. 2018, http://www.modernghana.com/news/842871/cocoa-drink-now-part-of-school-feeding-programme.html.

“Cocoa Farmer Income: the Household Income of Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Strategies for Improvement.” Fair Trade International , 2018, http://www.fairtrade-deutschland.de/fileadmin/DE/01_was_ist_fairtrade/05_wirkung/studien/fairtrade_international_response_study_cocoa_farmer_income_2018.pdf.

“President Akufo-Addo Celebrates Cocoa Farmers On World Cocoa Day.” The Presidency Republic of Ghana, 2 October 2017, https://presidency.gov.gh/index.php/briefing-room/news-style-2/391-president-akufo-addo-celebrates-cocoa-farmers-on-world-cocoa-day.

Haden, Alexis. “ South African Food Prices from 2008 vs 2018.” The South African, 31 Aug. 2018, http://www.thesouthafrican.com/south-african-food-prices-2008-vs-2018/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

“Niche Cocoa to Increase Local Cocoa Consumption.” Citifmonline.com, 14AD, 2017, citifmonline.com/2017/02/14/niche-cocoa-to-increase-local-cocoa-consumption/.

“The Challenges Facing West Africa’s Chocolate Industry.” Ghana Talks Business, 26 Sept. 2017, ghanatalksbusiness.com/challenges-facing-west-africas-chocolate-industry/.

Multimedia Sources

Niche Cocoa Bars. Digital image. Graphic Online. 14 February 2017, https://www.graphic.com.gh/business/business-news/niche-cocoa-to-increase-local-cocoa-consumption-introduces-chocolate-on-valentine-s-day.html.

Ghana Cocoa Board Banner. Digital image. Ghana Cocoa Board. 10 May 2017, https://www.cocobod.gh/news_details/id/125/COCOBOD%20MARKS%202017%20WORLD%20COCOA%20DAY.

“First Taste of Chocolate in Ivory Coast – Vpro Metropolis.” YouTube, VPRO Metropolis, 21 Feb. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEN4hcZutO0.

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