On Friday, March 6, Lucas Simons delivered the opening presentation and moderated a panel discussion at the 2015 Chocoa Conference. The annual conference is attended by an international audience of various stakeholders from the cocoa and chocolate industry.  Its aim is to stimulate production and consumption of sustainable cocoa and chocolate. This year’s theme was Market differentiation: The missing middle in the cocoa sector. In the cocoa industry, there are niche markets and mainstream markets. There are large differences in quality and sustainability between and within these market segments. The theme intended to explore the mid-market between the niche and mainstream markets.

Lucas’ presentation was titled Market concentration and the consequences for sustainability. He discussed small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and their role in making the cocoa sector sustainable. He did this using the so-called shapes and forces model developed by NewForesight. It identifies five categories of farmers based on the degree of organization and professionalism. Five different types of agricultural sector shapes are then identified based on the relation between these farmer categories. It concludes that the most sustainable shape is that of a diamond, in which the farmer category of SMEs (the middle segment) forms the majority.

You can find more information on the shapes and forces model in the NewForesight article Sustainable Intensification: A strategy for sustainable design here.

The panel debate that Lucas moderated was on the topic “Are we running out of cocoa?”. The predictions are unfavorable, but industry is working hard to change the gloomy outlook. Currently too many farmers are willing to produce cocoa for only 50 cents a day. In the long run this will kill the sector. Smallholders have to become professionals and earn accordingly. The question discussed by the panel was then how we are to start appreciating and valuing sustainable cocoa production. The conference covered other topics as well, such as Stretching the market for cocoa products and The consumer at the helm.

For more information on NewForesight’s work in the cocoa and chocolate sector, click here and here.

Read a (Dutch) report on the Chocoa conference from the magazine Vice Versa here.