Joint press release issued by:
Logo: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Logo: Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Ministers Müller and Schmidt open Annual General Assembly of German Ini­tia­tive on Sus­tain­able Cocoa

Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, jointly open the Annual General Meeting of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO).

13.05.2014 |

Today in Berlin, Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment, and Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, jointly opened the Annual General Meeting of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO).

In order to bring together the many separate activities for improvements in cocoa cultivation, the German gov­ern­ment organised a round table of the relevant stakeholders from the confectionery industry, retail and civil society two years ago. This also includes organisations that focus on compliance with environmental and social standards, for instance Fairtrade. GISCO started out as a forum of about 80 member organisations and has now become an association under German law (eingetragener Verein) called Forum Nachhaltiger Kakao, or German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa. The association seeks to improve the living conditions of cocoa farmers and to increase the share of sustainably produced cocoa.

Prior to opening the meeting together with his colleague, Minister Müller said, "Only if cocoa farmers have a fair living income will they be able to send their children to school. So we need to do everything we can to ensure that a greater proportion of what we pay for our chocolate will reach the farmers. As a rich industrialised nation, we – and this explicitly includes industry and trade – have a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to improve people's income opportunities and environmental protection in the cocoa sector."

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt emphasised the growing importance that consumers are attaching to social and environmental issues. He said, "Germany is the world's second largest processor of cocoa, so it has a special re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. We are therefore very pleased that all major stake­holders in the cocoa sector are willing to make a binding commitment by becoming members of the GISCO association. This puts the Initiative on a sound basis. It must also be noted that sus­tain­able production is the only way to ensure that industry will be able to secure the raw materials it needs. The Initiative's secret to success is that it forms a link between compassion and business interest. This is also attractive for consumers."

The two Ministers highlighted the importance of working together with the governments of producer coun­tries. They noted that this was the only way of permanently improving farmers' lives on the ground and creating the requisite infrastructure. On 29 April 2014, the two ministries signed a letter of intent with Côte d'Ivoire on co­op­er­a­tion in the cocoa sector. That document is the basis for GISCO's activities in that coun­try.

90 to 95 per cent of all cocoa is grown by smallholders with between one and three hectares of land. Many of these family farms rely exclusively on cocoa for their income. Most cocoa farmers and their families live below the pov­er­ty line of two US dollars per day and capita. As a result, child labour is still wide­spread in some regions, and farmers use en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly harmful practices.

Some 10 per cent of the cocoa produced worldwide is processed in Germany. More than half of Germany's net cocoa imports come from Côte d'Ivoire. The confectionery industry is the third largest industry in the German food sector and accounts for about 10 per cent of the sector's turnover.

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