Stephan Brunner

Where Does My Chocolate Come From?

Like so many others, I love chocolate, whether it’s a brownie, hot cocoa or, my personal favorite, a simple milk chocolate bar. As a matter of fact, I’m not the only one: according to the International Cocoa Organization, around 7.6 million tons of retail chocolate confectionery was consumed worldwide in 2017. But do you know where cocoa actually comes from?

The cocoa tree is native to Central and South America, but today cocoa is mainly cultivated in Africa. Many steps are necessary before cocoa is ready to be sold as a chocolate snack. It all starts with an evergreen tree and its pods and seeds – and an optimal environment. Cocoa plants need high temperatures as they are very sensitive to dry soil environments and rely on a humid atmosphere and shady places. The deep tropical regions around the equator are ideal for growing cocoa trees – for example in Ghana, Indonesia, or the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cocoa with more than 1.5 million tons per year.

Unfortunately, the environments I just described don’t provide optimal growth conditions for just cocoa plants, but also for pests and diseases. Furthermore, long periods of drought in these areas can cause yield losses of up to 40 percent of the global production. Because cocoa farmers rely heavily on revenues from exports, respective yields, prices, and market requirements are decisive for them to make a living from farming.

Stephan Brunner
Stephan Brunner
Stephan Brunner
Global Key Relation Manager at Bayer

Innovations and good agricultural practices play an important role in all of this. Bayer can really make a difference and help cocoa farmers grow safe and healthy food and connect farmers to markets, for example in Europe and North America.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended the World Cocoa Conference in Berlin to present our Food Chain Partnership initiative in the Ivory Coast. Together with local partners, we engage with cooperatives and support smallholder farmers to run a profitable farm. In the so-called MOAYE initiative, we help growers not only increase their yields, but also produce high-quality cocoa. We organized BayG.A.P. training sessions in which local farmers learned, among other things, to safely use crop protection products and about application technology and traceability measures. It’s always fulfilling to work alongside farmers and experience first-hand the great job they’re doing.

We also support farmers in obtaining certification and meeting the high standards required by traders and processors to provide consumers with their favorite treat. The farmers’ hard work pays off when retailers bring the sweet treat to the consumers and can share with them the story of how sustainably it was produced – which makes us enjoy our chocolate even more!

We all have to work together to make the cocoa sector more sustainable, because in the end we all benefit from a safe cocoa supply chain. The key to continuously satisfying yields is agronomic and technical know-how, and I have no doubt that farmers are eager to improve their skills. It’s up to us to better facilitate the transfer of expertise and know-how to the farmers.

The World Cocoa Conference proved that other stakeholders along the food chain indeed have the same goal: making sure we continue to enjoy chocolate for generations to come. By working together, we foster shared values by maximizing the benefits for the farmers and caring for the environment. Whenever I treat myself to a milk chocolate bar, I always think about the farmers growing the cocoa, whether in South America or Africa – and I can’t help but be proud of the work we do via our Food Chain Partnership initiatives and the BayG.A.P. Service Program. We truly make a difference in the lives of the farmers, their communities, and the environment!

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