Exploitation, child labour, poverty wages and the destruction of primeval forests? Admittedly, the global cocoa industry is justifiably subject to repeated criticism from human rights and environmental organisations. Nevertheless, it was clear to us from the very beginning - we cannot and do not want to do without cocoa and instead prefer to show that there is another way! Because cocoa is not just a raw material for us. It is THE quintessence of our beloved nucao bars - and without them we (the nu company) would probably not exist today. But here too, we want to be a pioneer and part of the solution, not the problem. Our recipe for fair and sustainably produced cocoa therefore consists of four main ingredients or principles: 100 percent traceable cocoa beans, fair payment for the farmers at the beginning of the value chain, support for a strong farmers' cooperative and last but not least the guarantee of premium quality through agroforestry.
1st ingredient - 100 percent traceable cocoa beans
All cocoa beans or the entire cocoa mass we purchase from our importer comes from one and the same farmers' cooperative in the Huánuco region of Peru. The members of the cooperative are small farming families who run their own farms and cultivate an average of 3 hectares of land. In addition to cocoa, cassava, bananas, papaya and beans are also grown on the land. According to the cooperative, with which we are in close contact, about 60 smallholder families were able to benefit from our cooperation and the purchase of cocoa mass last year. This means that our cocoa is actually 100 percent traceable and we can ensure that neither forced nor child labour is involved.
2. ingredient - fair payment for the farmers
The fight against structural poverty at the beginning of the cocoa supply chain and the guarantee of living wages are currently at the top of the agenda of initiatives for fairly produced cocoa. Our cocoa importer was able to confirm that our farmers already receive 30 percent more than the market price for cocoa beans. Based on the current market price, the farmers' payment is therefore also above the Fairtrade minimum price guaranteed by the Fairtrade seal.
The farmers of our farmers' cooperative are not only paid for the organic quality of the cocoa beans, but also receive a higher price compared to other cocoa farmers in the region, as they deliver premium quality in terms of cocoa taste. As far as Living Income Reference Price is concerned, however, we have not yet fully achieved our goal. This is mainly due to the fact that there is currently no generally applicable basis for calculating living income reference prices for cocoa farmers in Peru to which we can orient ourselves. Therefore, we want to visit our farmer families and the farmers' cooperative in Peru personally as soon as possible to get an impression of the living situation on site and to be able to set even fairer prices based on this.
3rd ingredient - A strong farmers' cooperative
Thanks to the close cooperation with the farmers' cooperative in Peru, a large part of the added value remains directly in the country of origin. This aspect plays a particularly important role in the rural regions of Peru affected by poverty, as it creates additional jobs. We do not buy the cocoa beans as a raw product, but the processed cocoa mass, which is ground directly on site by other employees of the farmers' cooperative. This additional income can be used directly by the cooperative to finance training for the farmers or to invest in better infrastructure in rural areas.
4. ingredient - premium quality through agroforestry
When it comes to the origin of our cocoa beans, organic farming and the avoidance of chemical synthetic pesticides are just as important to us as fair working conditions. Compliance with these strict criteria is regularly checked by an independent institute on site and passed on to our importer. Not only the cooperative is certified, but also the processing in Germany, because only then can our nucao bars bear the organic certificate at the end.
With an annual yield of around 900 kg per hectare, the cocoa harvest in the Huánuco region is naturally above average by international standards. The high productivity is partly due to the fact that the farmer families have local knowledge that has been built up over generations. In addition, our farmers receive regular training within the cooperative on tree care and natural plant disease control.
What also makes the cocoa plants resistant and leads to a premium quality is the cultivation in the agroforestry system. Agroforestry is the term used to describe cultivation systems in which woody plants (trees or shrubs) are combined with arable crops or animal husbandry on a single area in such a way that ecological and economic benefits are created between the various components. In this way, high soil fertility and optimal water absorption can be achieved, while at the same time preventing soil erosion, which is a major problem especially in monocultures. Plants can also survive more easily in this system during extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change.