Cocoa is a hot commodity as demand for it around the world continually increases. But because of poor farming practices and devastating infrastructure problems, cacao farmers struggle to keep the cocoa beans coming, leaving chocolate suppliers concerned. Instead of waiting for local governments to step up and address the sustainability of cocoa, many of these companies took on the challenge themselves.

“If this industry will survive, the foundation of the industry, which lies with farmers and growers, must be supported and improved,” said Neil Widlak, director, product services and development, ADM Cocoa, Milwaukee, WI. Like many of the chocolate suppliers working to ensure a sustainable cocoa supply, ADM Cocoa addresses the problem in two ways: farmer education and community support. The company established its own program, Socially Environmentally Responsible Agricultural Practices, which sends ADM Cocoa employees to cacao farms around the world to educate farmers in best agricultural practices. The company also improves community infrastructures by building bridges and improving roads so that farmers will be able to transport cocoa beans to ports for export.

Barry Callebaut, Chicago, IL, also aims to educate farmers and improve cacao farming communities. With sustainable cocoa as one of its four strategic pillars, the company made the issue a top priority. The company’s Quality Partner Program (QPP) advances farmers’ livelihoods by teaching them how to maintain their farms and increase yield and improving bean quality and traceability. QPP also provides access to basic healthcare, schools and clean water. The company’s Cocoa Horizons program takes farming education to the next level by inviting cacao farmers to model farms where they can work with a trainer for a hands-on education.

Cargill, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, has educated farmers through its Cargill Sustainable Cocoa Program for more than 10 years now. Beyond improving farming techniques through its field schools, Cargill also teaches cacao growers how to handle the business aspect of their farms so that they can increase yield and quality to earn a higher income. Cargill is also a founding member of UTZ Certified, a program that ensures cocoa beans meet specific sustainable criteria. ADM offers Rainforest Alliance and fair trade certified products. Barry Callebaut and Cargill offer Rainforest Alliance, fair trade and UTZ certified chocolate and cocoa products.