Ben & Jerry’s pioneers holistic approach to living incomes for cocoa farmers, in partnership with Fairtrade

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Cocoa farmers in Cote D’Ivoire are set to earn higher prices for their beans, as Ben & Jerry’s ramps up its living income approach for farmers, in partnership with Fairtrade.

From October 2020 onwards, around 5,000 Fairtrade cocoa farmers in Ben & Jerry’s supply chain will receive approximately an additional $600,000 over the next year. This amount is on top of the annual Fairtrade Premium of around $970,0001 and the Ivorian government’s minimum price for cocoa that all companies are required to pay. The extra money that farmers will now receive is an important part of Ben & Jerry’s wider efforts to support farmers towards closing the living income gap.

Cocoa farming is an incredibly unpredictable business, and farmers bear the risk of losses caused by climate change and extreme weather patterns. Smallholder cocoa farmers also have virtually no control over global market prices and are at the mercy of price volatility. Inequality in the cocoa chain means farmers are trapped in extreme poverty and can’t afford to invest in more progressive farming methods to improve their income or adapt to a changing climate. In turn, rural communities are held back and the natural environment suffers. A living income is enough to provide decent housing and health care, clean water and education, plus a little extra for unexpected events, helping to break the cycle.

The higher prices Ben & Jerry’s will be paying are the latest step in a package of living income interventions that they have implemented together with Fairtrade since 2015. These activities include productivity, diversification and co-operative strengthening which together support a living income strategy for the future. The higher prices will be closely monitored through partners on the ground to understand exactly how they contribute towards a sustainable livelihood for farmers. 

Ben & Jerry’s global values-led sourcing manager, Cheryl Pinto, said: “We’re committed to working for economic justice through our ice cream, and now we’re making history by ramping up our commitment with the cocoa we buy.  Starting with the cocoa in our chocolate ice cream mix, we’re working towards the Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price2 for cocoa farmers, and this is the beginning. We are exploring living incomes in our other global supply chains, too.”

Ben & Jerry’s purchases across all commodities are significant and have generated $3.6m in Fairtrade Premiums in 2019 for farming communities to spend as they choose. Many have funded schools, and invested in climate resilience and local infrastructure.  

Louisa Cox, Fairtrade’s director of Impact, said: “It’s complex work to advance towards a living income, but both organisations are committed to this vision. Ben & Jerry’s recognises the role of business in addressing the challenges in the cocoa sector and this commitment sets a great example for other companies to follow. So next time when you’re scooping up a tub of delicious Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream, remember you’re helping supporting farmers to build better futures.”