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What does "Sustainable" mean to you, when it comes to cocoa?

Mars just announced that many of its products in the Netherlands will be UTZ certified starting February 2012.

Accompanying the announcement was the following "definition" for sustainability. 


Sustainable cocoa means that it is produced using humanitarian agriculture techniques that are environmentally friendly and offer cocoa farmers a better price.


Please share your thoughts on this definition.


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After spending a little time on the UTZ website, it is unclear how they are different or the same from fair trade and or organic.   From the little I know about what goes on the DR, it appears as if the farmer cooperatives have went the fair trade route and the larger producers may use the UTZ track, Roig for instance in the DR.  Rizek and Munne seem to be happy with the organic label.  These large producers and processors of cacao have set up quality operations.  You see a number of the Roig associated farms with sign in the campos near Castillo.  The farmer cooperatives work primarily with the smaller farmers in much the same manner, while trying to get to the same level of control and quality.

We see a lot of UTZ cacao in Vietnam (in fact most of our current chocolate line comes from UTZ cacao), but because the certification is either unknown or associated to huge industrial actors (Mars, Cargill...) we haven't bothered indicating that our chocolate is 'UTZ certified'; having said that, if the certification is done reasonably, which I haven't checked in detail, to exclude obviously non environmentally-friendly or exploitative practices, I say why not, because what we see on the ground is UTZ farmers getting a premium without the well-known (on this forum at least) drawbacks of the costly, cumbersome Fair Trade or Organic certification process, which are just beyond the reach of any individual Vietnamese farmer.

While UTZ may be less well known (to some) than FLO, RA, and others, the question is really about your feelings about the definition of sustainable.

Good question. Being back in my hometown in Gascony, watching the October sun set on the yellow-leafed vines that were harvested last month, and that were already planted around here by the Romans 2000 years ago, I guess the obvious notion of sustainable cocoa ought to be: a cultivation of cocoa that could be sustained for many centuries, while nurturing the local community, its people and its culture.

Cacao plantations are generally considered sustainable environmentally speaking if chemicals are not used?  The areas in the DR will cacao are very forested and allow for complimentary crops to be grown for personal consumption.  Plantanos, bananas yucca, and other root vegetables, citrus mango and zapote to name a few are found scattered all over the place with and around the cacao. 

From a cultural perspective.  I find the cacao regions to generally be better off economically, are organized, have good schools and access to health care.  Those that own a decent amount of land travel to the US when they want and are often leaders in their communities.  They tend to take care of each other and everyone does their part.  I would argue that cacao areas that I am associated with in the Dominican Republic are sustainable.  The income provided to these areas by cacao production is their base. 

Clay, I am reluctant to use the term sustainability when referring to cacau. I am more prone to apply the word to “cacao workers”. Far too long we have wrung our hands and searched for way to obtain cocoa beans that meet some imaginary standard. It is not the trees that suffer from abusive producers and governments, IT’S THE WORKER!!!! Take a look at the salaries for selected cocoa producing countries. Does this look sustainable to you?

The Harkin-Engel Protocol made a watered down attempt to protect children that were working in cocoa plantations, but, I hear very little mention of the thousands of adult workers who are working for pennies a day.

Benin 30,000 CFA francs (€46) per month

Bolivia 647 Bolivian bolivianos (€66) per month

Brazil R$ 545.00 about US$ 348.39 per month, paid 13 times a year one month paid vacation plus 8.5% retirement deposit

Burkina Faso 30,684 CFA francs (€47) a month in the formal sector; does not apply to subsistence agriculture 182,000

Chile Chilean pesos (€258) per month for workers aged 18–65 ;

Columbia 535,000 Colombian pesos (€207) a month (2011);

Costa Rica 131,907 Costa Rican colones (€186) a month

Ivory Coast it varies by occupation, with the lowest set to 36,607 CFA franc (€56)

Dominican Republic 4,900 Dominican pesos (€91)

Ghana Ghanaian cedis (€1.95) a day Guatemala Guatemalan quetzales (€4.78) per day for agricultural work

Indonesia 1,410,000 rupiah (€116) per month in Papua; as low as 675,000 rupiah per month in West Java

Madagascar 70,025 Malagasy ariary (€25) per month for nonagricultural workers; 71,000 ariary per month for agricultural workers[9]

Mexico 54.47 pesos (€3.49) in Zone C (all other states)

Nigeria 18,000 naira (€81) per month, nationally (with a 13 month year as the law mandates an extra month's pay for the Christmas holiday)

Peru 550 Peruvian nuevos soles (€139) per month[52]

Sao Tome 650,000 São Tomé and Príncipe dobras (€27) per month for civil servants

Is this Fair Trade?  Is this good for natural habitat? Is this good for the rain forest? Is this organic? It;s time we look past the glitzy organizations with certified backgrounds and insist that the actual producers are treated in a SUSTAINABLE manner.


Jim Lucas


Jim Lucas

i agree with jim,

sustainable should be for the workers, sustainable should be as well for the land/nature.

we notice that more and more people knows about fair trade and also understand that fair trade doesn't always mean "sustainable".

I think that the world of chocolate is ready for a new change: too many organization requiring money for a "stamp", too many different ones.

If anyone comes up with a fair priced -sustainable for the worker and for the land-  "stamp"  it would be very good. but only one, not one for germany, one for Usa one for Asia ect...  just one, world wide that is sustainable for the farmers.

The minimum wage in the Dominican Republic is listed at RD$4,900.  That is inaccurate information.  In May of 2011 it was raised and the campo worker minimum wage is about RD$200/day, about US$5.25.  That comes out to about RD$8000 a month or about US$210.  They way it works in the area I work is that people are available as day labors for the busy times.  Each cacao producer generally have their trusted employees who work full-time on aspects of running a farm and harvesting other products.  These trusted employees almost become part of the family and are often related in some manner.  My guess is that a 300 tarea cacao farm (60 acres) will bring about US25,000 a year in  profits with a land value of US$70,000-100,000.  It is a lot of work and then you need to have fermentation and dryers if you do not sell it wet. 


So who are we talking about getting the fair price for their labor and investment, the farmer/worker or the worker/employee?


i was addressing the worker...worker, not farm owner. 


I don't ubderstand your math. If the worker receives US$5.25 per day, it seems difficult to arrive at

US$210 per month.  210/5.25=40 days  per month?   Do day labors work every day...7 days per week?

normal work weeks are 5.5 days that would earn  US$ 28.87 per week or US$115.00 per month.


Workers in Brazil work 44hr weeks, holidays and Sundays are  2X normal salary and night service is 1.5

times normal salary.


Is the US$25000 gross or net profit?



You are right.  Let me correct my numbers.  I looked up the new Dominican minimum wage and they vary and the rural worker 10 hours a day is listed around 200 pesos a day.  I know that the average worker gets 2000 pesos a week for a 5 day week.  A Dominican will not work for $200 pesos a day and is the reason why Haitians are taking over much of the manual labor force.  Thank you correcting me.
From what I have learned, a tarea of cacao land where my wife is born produces 1-3 quintales (100 pounds) per year with most producing 1.  30,000 pounds (300 quintales) of dry cacao beans will get you $1,650,000 pesos or about US$43,000.  Sanchez, unfermented was getting RD$5,500 per quintal in July and may be a little higher today due to rise of cacao on the international market.  After you pay for your labor, transportation (vehicle and mule) and the capacity to dry, my guess is you end up with about US$25,000.  These are raw numbers and feel free to pick at them.  I am sure additional costs are not included.  So net profit.   You sure will not live high on the hog managing 300 tareas.  Most farmers have less and some have more.  All have other forms of income or ways to provide for the family.


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