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In a meeting last week organized by his International Sustainability Unit, 12 of the top cocoa and chocolate companies including Mars Inc. and Cargill Inc. committed to ending deforestation that has plagued West Africa.
The initiative also involves governments of top growers Ivory Coast and Ghana, where large amounts of cocoa are grown on environmentally unsuitable land, Richard Scobey, president of the World Cocoa Foundation, said in an interview in London. The Ivorian Forestry Ministry estimates about 80 percent of the country’s forests have disappeared since the 1970s.
“Over the past 50 years, about half of the world’s tropical forests have been lost largely due to agricultural encroachments,” Scobey said. “There have been four big commodities that are the drivers of deforestation: soy, palm oil, lumber and cattle. However, in the case of West Africa, there’s no question that cocoa has been a significant driver.”
Commodities including cocoa, coffee and palm oil have been the backbone of West African economies for decades. As cocoa prices outperformed other crops in several years through 2015, that fueled more production of beans that in many cases came at the expense of forests.
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