Trade for Development Centre is a programme of Enabel, the Belgian development agency.

Yeyasso is making its way

On the occasion of the World Cocoa Conference held in Brussels from 21 to 24 April, the Trade for Development Centre met Yeo Yesson Moussa, Managing Director of Yeyasso, based in Man, Côte d’Ivoire. The meeting was an opportunity to take stock of the cooperative’s projects.

What has been the cooperative’s development since the support of the Trade for Development Centre?

With the support of Enabel’s TDC, the cooperative has become more visible and is making progress. We obtained organic certification for some of our beans, which has enabled us to start talks with Colruyt. The supermarket chain could be interested in buying 50 to 70 tonnes a year over a three-year period. They are even prepared to pay the Living Income Reference Price* for this organic cocoa.

We have also developed a new project with the King Baudouin Foundation and Chocolaterie Galler to increase our organic production capacity, better combat child labour and participate in the carbon market. With the help of Professor Doucet and a student from the University of Liège, we have started to identify all our trees. We hope to be active on the carbon market in 2026. 

We are also setting up a biofactory to produce fertiliser from the compost, mainly to no longer be dependent on industrial fertiliser and thus reduce our costs, but also to have fungal elements available to use as organic insecticides in our plots. We received training from SCEB, a cooperative also supported by TDC, who explained to our teams how to use organic fertiliser on the plots. We will soon be training producers in waves of 25 at the biofactory, so that everyone can acquire the technical know-how and treat their own plot.

Finally, thanks to the support of the TDC, we have also been in contact with Kampani, which will finance the construction of our chocolate factory to the tune of 150,000 euros.

Speaking of your chocolate factory project, how is it progressing?

The construction of the building that will house the chocolate factory is 90% complete. The remaining 10% concerns the roof.

Mario Vandeneede of Chocolatoa, a chocolate manufacturer located between Bruges and Ghent, is helping us to choose the machines to be used, to train the teams and to ensure that the hygiene conditions are met. On several occasions, Mario has developed chocolate samples using selected beans fermented according to a very precise protocol defined by the Zoto company. This protocol requires a certain number of days for fermentation and very careful drying, while maintaining a certain amount of moisture in the beans to preserve a certain type of flavour.

How is the cocoa market evolving?

Everything seems to be going well for the industry, but cocoa is not bought from producers as it should be. They are the worst off in the chain. For the market to do well, the manufacturers have to think about the welfare of the producers. If they don’t, it will be very complicated. This year there weren’t many pods and the price was very low, which means that the producers will be even poorer. If they stop producing cocoa, there will be no chocolate. It has to be a win-win situation.

What is the price of cocoa in the field?

The official field price of the Conseil Café Cacao is FCFA 1,500 per kilo. But you know that we are in a situation on the market where there is less supply than demand. As a result, customers are willing to pay more and the price tends to go up. Since we are located in a border area, we are often confronted with other buyers who come to our fields and offer more aggressive prices, such as 2,000 FCFA/kg, in order to grab the little cocoa that is available.

How does a field price of FCFA 1,500 affect the cooperatives?

The cooperatives need to be strong enough and have enough money to collect the cocoa. Otherwise, collectors will come with cash  to the producer and divert the cocoa intended for the cooperatives. Let me give you an example: if the price is 1000 FCFA/kg and the cooperative has a financial capacity of 10 million FCFA, it will be able to harvest 10 tonnes. If the price is 1,500 FCFA and the cooperative does not have 15 million FCFA, its purchasing capacity will be reduced. The cooperative must therefore carry out awareness-raising activities to develop the cooperative spirit.

What do you think of ARS-1000 certification?  

This is an initiative to be welcomed. If cooperatives are certified, they will be able to obtain additional resources. Yeyasso is part of one of the pilot projects testing certification. Among other things, these projects are looking at the differences between cooperatives certified by the Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade and non-certified cooperatives. A cooperative that is already certified to private standards will have a much better chance of being certified to ARS-1000. I don’t think it will be too complicated for us.

ARS-1000 assesses the economic, social and environmental realities of the cooperative. For example, cooperatives must plant 25 to 40 trees per hectare on their land and commit to agroforestry production. The pilot projects will also study the yields of the plots to see what can be improved.

ARS-1000 has three levels of cooperatives: bronze, silver and gold. A gold cooperative will be 100% compliant with the standard. Yeyasso is currently 83% compliant. The final audits, carried out by companies such as Ecocert, Control Union, Veritas or SGS, could take place at the end of May or in June. We could then be ARS-1000 certified.

Why is it important for Yeyasso to be present at the World Cocoa Conference?

Yeyasso believes it is important to be present at major events in the cocoa sector in order to be visible, to have a say and to carry the voice of the producers. We are part of the conference programme, the theme of which is “Paying more for sustainable cocoa”. In Côte d’Ivoire, the new price of FCFA 1,500 per kilo is a good basis for discussion and for achieving sustainable cocoa. You can’t talk about sustainability without putting a price on it. If we ask producers to make greater efforts without financial compensation, it makes no sense. Sustainability and price are two sides of the same coin.

Interview by Samuel Poos, Coordinator of the Trade for Development Centre

* The “living income reference price” is the cocoa price that enables producers to receive an income sufficient to meet their basic needs and those of their families. In 2022, Fairtrade International has set this price at 1602 FCF/kg field-side in Côte d’Ivoire.

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