The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the largest chocolate suppliers have been donating money to keep the two largest chocolate-generating countries in Africa stay Ebola free, as they have been for the last two years. That is great for business and even for keeping chocolate consumers safe, but why doesn’t the industry care about other important issues, such as the use of GMOs in its delicious candy? These two West African countries produce more than half of the world’s cocoa – so of course the industry is concerned, but don’t be fooled by their ‘humanitarian’ contribution – it’s all in the best interest of their business.
The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), an industry group made up of big players in the cocoa and chocolate business such as Mars, Inc., Cargill Inc. and Mondelez International Inc., announced a $600,000 donation to support Ebola care and prevention efforts in West Africa just last week.
The funds were solicited from members of the foundation and will be divided between several organizations, the WCF said.
So – why the large-ish donation (which is nothing compared to the 10’s of millions they have spent to fight GMO labeling across the country)? Prices for their coveted chocolate bar ingredients have surged to 3.5 year highs due to fears of an Ebola outbreak on the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two countries responsible for over 60% of the world’s cocoa production.
There have been no reported cases of Ebola in either of these countries for two years, but they are on the border of Liberia and Guinea, two countries which have been ravaged by the virus.
Cocoa beans are poured out to dry in the sun in Niable, a border town between Ivory Coast and Ghana, and understandably this is unsettling to chocolate makers.
Bill Guyton, president of the WCF has said:
“[Ebola] is something that we’re deeply concerned about. In addition to financial resources, the industry has a network on the ground which is being used to spread information about the disease to farmers.”
Even if only one or two cases of Ebola show up in Ivory Coast, this could severely impact the chocolate industry. The cocoa beans are transported by middlemen from farmers to large companies for export, and if an upset in the delivery chain occurred, there could be trouble.
Furthermore, the travel restrictions and quarantines used to contain the disease could quickly isolate millions of farmers, choking off supplies to the chocolate dynasty just as they’re expecting an influx of beans.
Already the region’s cocoa production is in question. For delivery in December on ICE Futures U.S. settled at $3,102 a ton, down 8% from the 3 1/2-year high hit on Sept. 24.
Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer at Mars, maker of M&M’s and Twix responded:
“One thing the industry can do is ensure that the industry keeps running. Ebola is not a food-borne illness.”
Another member of the WCF said:
“The best way to help West African cocoa farmers and their communities is to continue to buy the cocoa that they grow.”
Is that like eating GMO-laden chocolate? Just FYI – there is a plan to flood 70% of the global cocoa supply with genetically modified (GMO) cocoa tree hybrids, a collaboration involving Mars, USDA and IBM is accelerating this process.