Oxfam Ireland Homepage
  • 4 min read
  • Published: 11th May 2023
  • Press Release by Christine Bale

Oxfam survey reveals a sweet deal for chocolate giants on World Fair Trade Day

  • Ghanaian cocoa farmers’ paltry incomes fell on average by 16 percent since the start of the pandemic — while the confectionary profits of the four biggest public chocolate corporations on average jumped by the exact same rate.
  • The combined fortunes of the Mars and Ferrero families, who own the two biggest private chocolate corporations, have risen by $39 billion since 2020. They now have a combined net worth of around $157 billion.
  • Chocolate corporations’ sustainability programmes are failing to deliver on promises to raise farmers’ incomes.
  • Oxfam Ireland calls on MEPs to tackle human rights abuses in supply chains through the EU corporate sustainability due diligence directive vote next month.

For World Fair Trade Day (13 May), an Oxfam survey reveals that up to 90 percent of Ghanaian cocoa farmers do not earn a living income. Many of the 800,000 farmers in the country survive on just $2 a day.

“There’s big money in chocolate —but definitely not for farmers,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar. “Cocoa farmers work extremely hard, under gruelling conditions, yet can’t always feed their families.”

Oxfam is contrasting this with the huge profits enjoyed by the world’s four largest public chocolate corporations, Hershey, Lindt, Mondelēz and Nestlé. Together they have made nearly $15 billion in profits from their confectionary divisions alone since the onset of the pandemic, up by an average 16 percent since 2020.

The net incomes of Ghanian farmers fell by the exact same amount, 16%, since the start of the pandemic.

After decades of pledges to rid their supply chains of child labour, poverty and deforestation, chocolate corporations’ failure to pay prices that ensure a living income —let alone protect farmers’ incomes from free-falling— is another setback to global efforts to make chocolate more sustainable and ethical.

“Chocolate giants need to put their money where their mouth is,” said Behar.  “Without fair pricing and living incomes there will never be such a thing as ‘sustainable’ or ‘exploitation-free’ chocolate.”

The huge challenge faced by over 400 Cocoa farmers surveyed by Oxfam can be seen in the following figures. They report being paid a premium of $35 to $40 per tonne of cocoa.  The average cocoa farmer in Ghana produces about one tonne of cocoa annually. They need to earn $2,600 more per year to get a living income.

As well as falling prices, farmers have had to grapple with falling production – despite support from the chocolate industry designed to boost cocoa production. In Oxfam’s report “Towards a Living Income for Cocoa Farmers in Ghana” there is analysis of the sustainability programmes of ten of the top chocolate manufacturers and traders operating in Ghana. It shows the crop yields of farmers in the corporations’ supply chains declined by 25 percent between 2020 and 2022.

Nine out of ten farmers said they are worse off since the pandemic. More and more cocoa farmers are selling their land to illegal miners or turning to polluting ‘galamsey’ (artisanal mining) to supplement or replace their incomes.

“Our World Fair Trade Day research highlights the hollow promises of some big business to respect suppliers’ livelihoods and the environment – an injustice trapping workers in poverty in industries beyond cocoa farming,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland CEO.

“Our MEPs have a real opportunity to meaningfully tackle these kinds of human rights abuses and environmental damage across all sectors next month when they’ll vote in the European Parliament to introduce historic human rights and sustainability rules for corporations.

“The need for mechanisms like the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD is clear in the David versus Goliath fight of cocoa farmers against corporate giants and in many other sectors. 

We are calling on our Irish MEPs to make sure these rules are strong and effective and mark real change for the people who need it most – the workers.”



Alice Dawson Lyons | Head of Communications and Campaigns | Oxfam Ireland

Email: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org 

Mobile: +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors

Download Oxfam’s report “Towards a Living Income for Cocoa Farmers in Ghana” and methodology note outlining how Oxfam calculated the statistics.

Hershey, Lindt, Mondelēz and Nestlé have together made nearly $15 billion in profits from their confectionary divisions alone since the onset of the pandemic, up by an average 16 percent since 2020. Of the four corporations, only one did not significantly increase its profits compared to 2020.

Figures on the fortunes of the Mars and Ferrero families comes from Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaire List.

In April 2023, the European Parliament approved a new law that will allow the sale of cocoa and other commodities in the EU only if the supplier has issued a “due diligence” statement confirming that the product does not come from deforested land or has led to forest degradation.

According to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cocoa beans (15 percent of global production).

Of the $130 billion global chocolate industry, less than $2 billion goes to Ghana.

According to the European Commission, the EU is the world's largest importer of cocoa, accounting for 60 percent of world imports.