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巧克力巨头拯救西非供应链

巧克力巨头拯救西非供应链

Shelley DuBois 2012年02月09日
好时希望通过针对可可种植者的一系列慈善活动来确保供应链的安全,这些措施是否真的能造福于当地农民?

    好时(Hershey)Kiss巧克力远比乍看之下复杂。生产这种食品及其他巧克力糖果所需的可可大都产于西非,经过漫长的供应链,万里迢迢地来到美国工厂。

    好时这样的财富500强巨头必须为整条供应链上的每一个环节担负起责任,如今,这种情况更是无以复加。1月30日,好时宣布,计划投入1,000万美元,用于在2017年前解决西非可可种植园中的童工问题。这笔资金还将帮助农民们获得教育培训,提高可可产量。

    好时的这一最新举措属于各方面为保护可可供应链而协同努力的一环。从2000年世界可可基金会(the World Cocoa Foundation)成立之日起,这一战役就已经打响。该基金会促使包括好时及其竞争对手玛氏(Mars)、雀巢(Nestlé)和卡夫(Kraft)在内的大型巧克力公司与可可生产国的政府和农户携起手来。

    大公司注重的是增长和利润,这两个数据与外国小农的生活状况并没有必然联系。可是,可可生产具有的一些特征使得可持续发展对巧克力行业具有至关重要的意义。

可可是怎样炼成的

    要维持可可的持续生产,就要求彼此竞争的企业展开合作,共同帮助农民,这谈何容易。“全球包装糖果行业的竞争极为激烈,”好时在2010年财报中写道:“一些竞争对手规模比我们大得多,拥有的资源多得多,在国际市场的实力也更为强大。”

    不过,巧克力厂商的确存在共同利益,如果农民们能生产更多可可,所有业内巨头都会得益。市场需求正在增长。随着印度和中国等国日趋富裕,这两个国家的中产阶级正在蓬勃壮大,这个阶层的新成员对咖啡和巧克力等奢侈性商品的胃口也日益显现。

    同时,各大厂商还需密切关注环境和政治问题对可可收成的威胁。可可只适合在赤道气候中生长,因此能种植可可的土地有限。受病虫害侵害,每年有三分之一的可可树颗粒无收。可可出产国政治形势的不稳定也会进一步加剧市场的动荡。例如,科特迪瓦贡献了全球可可产量的三分之一。2011年,该国的一次地方性选举引发政治动荡,导致政府暂停一切出口。可可供应因此受限,价格也随之暴涨。

    为了保证供给,企业必须直接与当地农民接触。举例来说,好时去年引入了一项称为可可链(COCOALINK)的项目。鉴于多数农民已有手机,该项目通过短信向农民发送气候和害虫防控信息。“我们已经看到了真正与农民打交道、向其提供最可靠信息的裨益,”好时公关副总裁安德鲁•麦克科米克表示。“初步结果显示,这将在几年内使可可产量翻一番。”

    巧克力厂商还在尝试其他形式的社区活动。2009年,多家企业与比尔及梅琳达盖茨基金会(the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation)携手,通过一个4,000万美元规模的计划,来改善可可生产地区的教育,并改进可可的种植方法。

    A Hershey's Kiss is more complicated than it looks. Most of the cocoa in it and other chocolate candies comes from West Africa, and it makes its way through a long supply chain to get to U.S. factories.

    Now more than ever, Fortune 500 companies such as Hershey (HSY) have to take responsibility for every link in that chain. On January 30, Hershey announced plans to put $10 million towards solving child labor problems on West African cocoa farms by 2017. The money should also help farmers access educational programs and improve their cocoa yield.

    Hershey's latest move is part of a larger effort to secure the cocoa supply chain, a campaign that began with the founding of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) in 2000. The WCF joined big chocolate companies -- including Hershey and its competitors Mars, Nestlé, and Kraft (KFT) -- with governments and farmers in cocoa-producing nations.

    Big businesses run on growth and profit, two figures that aren't necessarily linked to the well-being of small farmers in foreign countries. But certain characteristics of cocoa may put the chocolate industry in a sweet spot for sustainable development.

What goes into making our cocoa

    Sustainable cocoa development requires competing companies to work together to help farmers, no small hurdle. "The global confectionery packaged goods industry is intensely competitive," Hershey said in its 2010 annual report. "Some of our competitors are much larger firms that have greater resources and more substantial international operations."

    But there is common ground. All industry players benefit if farmers produce more cocoa. Market demand is growing. As nations like India and China grow wealthier, new members of their burgeoning middle classes have developed an appetite for luxury goods such as coffee and chocolate.

    At the same time, companies are keeping an eye on environmental and political threats to cocoa yields. Space to grow cocoa is limited; it only thrives in equatorial climates. About a third of the crop grown every year is trashed because of pests and disease. Unstable political conditions in cocoa-producing nations also adds to the volatility in the market. Cote d'Ivoire, for example, produces over a third of the world's cocoa. In 2011, political unrest surrounding a local election caused the government to cease all exports, which limited the cocoa supply and sent cocoa prices skyward.

    Companies need to get on the ground to ensure their supply. Hershey, for example, introduced a program called COCOALINK in 2011. COCOALINK distributes information about climate and pest control via SMS to farmers with cell phones, which most of them already have. "We're starting to see the benefits when you really get to the farmers and give them the best information," says Andrew McCormick, the vice president of public affairs at Hershey. "The preliminary results are that it will double crop yields in a couple of years."

    Chocolate companies are also working on other kinds of community outreach. In 2009, several companies joined the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation on a $40 million project to boost education and improve farming practices in cocoa-growing regions.

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