Ecuador’s Cocoa Farmers Advocate for Fair Trade Amid Global Price Surge on Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, Ecuadorian cocoa producers, hailing from the birthplace of cocoa, championed the celebration with chocolate while demanding fair compensation for farmers. Amid environmental challenges in Ghana and Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producers, global cocoa prices have soared to historic highs. At a fair in Quito named ‘Say It With Chocolate,’ the Ecuadorian cocoa community highlighted the need for fair farmer compensation in light of a 40% price hike in the U.S. since the year’s start.

In the Heart of Ecuador: A Call for Justice and Sustainability

In the heart of Ecuador, the cradle of cocoa, a movement is stirring among the fields and forests that have birthed the precious cacao bean for thousands of years. This Valentine’s Day, the echo of a timeless tradition was intertwined with a call for justice and sustainability from the hands that cultivate one of the world’s most beloved treasures: chocolate. Amidst a backdrop of soaring global cocoa prices, Ecuadorian cocoa producers gathered in Quito at the ‘Say It With Chocolate’ fair, transforming the day of love into a platform for advocacy, demanding fair compensation for farmers, and shining a spotlight on the challenges and opportunities within the cocoa industry.

Historically, Ecuador holds a revered place in the chronicles of cocoa. Archaeological finds in Palanda, near the Peruvian border, revealed cocoa residue in pottery dating back 5,000 years, belonging to the Mayo Chinchipe culture. This discovery underscores Ecuador’s ancient ties to cocoa, a legacy that Ecuadorian farmers today are determined to honor with practices that ensure sustainability, fairness, and quality.

The significance of cocoa to Ecuador transcends mere agricultural output; it is woven into the nation’s identity. Ecuador is celebrated for its biodiversity and being a leading producer of “fine aroma” cocoa. This designation speaks to its cocoa beans’ quality, flavor, and aromatic profile. The country is the world’s third-largest cocoa producer, a testament to the dedication of approximately 400,000 individuals in the cocoa value chain. In 2023 alone, Ecuador exported 352,000 tonnes of cocoa and derivatives, marking a significant contribution to the global chocolate industry.

‘Say It With Chocolate’ Fair: Advocacy for Fair Compensation

The ‘Say It With Chocolate’ fair in Quito brought together rural entrepreneurs from provinces like Napo, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Manabí, Imbabura, and Pichincha, along with private companies, public institutions, and cooperation agencies dedicated to supporting the cocoa chain. Among the participants was Paccari, an Ecuadorian chocolate company that has gained international fame for its commitment to fair trade. Alexandra De la Torre, responsible for Institutional Relations at Paccari, emphasized the company’s longstanding advocacy for fair cocoa pricing, highlighting the importance of national pride in Ecuador’s cocoa heritage.

The call for fair compensation comes at a critical time. Global cocoa prices have hit record highs, influenced by environmental challenges in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which account for around 60% of the world’s cocoa production. In the United States, cocoa prices surged by 40% since the beginning of the year, according to CNBC, placing unprecedented pressure on the chocolate industry. This price hike is attributed to the adverse effects of El Niño, which has caused drier conditions in West Africa, significantly impacting cocoa yield.

Ecuador’s response to these global challenges is multifaceted. Farmers like Víctor Coquinche, administrator of the Mishki Runa Producer Association in Napo, emphasize the importance of valorizing agricultural labor and improving productive practices. Mishki Runa, seeking to support local farmers with better prices, represents a growing movement towards independence and sustainability in cocoa production. The association is also pursuing organic certification to access international markets, having already sent cocoa samples to France for potential export.

Government Acknowledgment and Support

The Ecuadorian government acknowledges the strategic importance of the cocoa sector. Esteban del Hierro, Vice Minister of Agricultural Productive Development, highlighted the exceptional characteristics of Ecuadorian cocoa, which has positioned the country as a preferred source for premium chocolate manufacturers worldwide. The rigorous and delicate processes of fermentation and drying employed in Ecuador ensure that its cocoa beans meet the highest quality, flavor, and aroma standards.

The record international prices for cocoa, which reached $5,888 per ton for March delivery in New York and London, underscore the urgency of addressing cocoa producers’ challenges. A year prior, prices stood at $2,600 per ton, indicating a significant shift in the market dynamics. This surge affects chocolate prices, which have increased by 10% in the United States, and highlights the vulnerability of cocoa production to climate change.

Also read: Colombia Secures Multimillion-Dollar Loans to Bolster Peace Plans

The situation in Ecuador and the broader narrative of cocoa production globally serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of environmental sustainability, fair trade, and the preservation of cultural heritage. As Ecuadorian cocoa producers unite to advocate for fair compensation and sustainable practices, they aim to protect their livelihoods and ensure the future of chocolate, a product of love and labor, for generations to come. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Ecuador’s message is clear: the essence of chocolate extends beyond its taste, embodying values of fairness, sustainability, and pride in a legacy that dates back millennia.

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