Is the cocoa industry heading for the red?

Apr 19 2018

According to reports from the 6th annual Chocoa initiative held in Amsterdam last month, the general consensus from cocoa farmers, processors, traders and chocolate manufacturers is that the whole cocoa industry is struggling. “Today, less than 20% of the cocoa production is sustainable. The demand for sustainable chocolate is increasing while production in cocoa growing countries is decreasing”, said a Chocoa representative.

There are many factors that contribute to the decline in cocoa production. Deforestation, climate changes, child labour, crop disease, social and political changes in the growing area and the income of farmers, all are collectively causing this decline. John Ament, Global Vice President of cocoa at Mars Wrigley Confectionery revealed “about 70% of Cocoa in the world is produced in West Africa by smallholder farmers who earn less that £1.50 a day.” This is extreme poverty and it can’t go on as many farmers can no longer afford to invest in their land, pay additional field hands, afford the correct fertilizers or apply new advanced practices that would help boost cocoa production.

Sourcing is at the heart of Ragus' business: it sources sugar beet from Europe and travels the world from Africa to the Caribbean to South America and the Pacific countries to find the best, most reliable, and sustainably produced, sources of cane sugar. The sugar is manufactured by Ragus at its UK plant into a range of pure sugars, syrups and special formulations
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The cocoa bean is a precious resource that only grows in tropical areas with high rainfalls. The production is labour intensive, which means many farmers have to rely on family and their children to work the land, thus increasing the problem of child labour. Also with the crops being vulnerable to disease this is a major disadvantage as whole orchards could be wiped out. The Ivory Coast has already lost 300,000 hectares of diseased cocoa orchards due to cocoa swollen shoot virus in the past few years. Likewise, since 1946, the national eradication program has cut out more than 250 millions trees in Ghana due to contamination.

Chairman of Cocoa Horizons Foundation Nicko Debenham suggests “we need to change the design of the farm to become multi-source incomes, a diverse farm.” The general feeling at Chocoa is that smallholder farmers need to broaden their production and be open to producing more products; they can no longer solely rely on cocoa, as it is not proving viable or profitable for them. This would open more opportunities for them and diversification is the way forward to help these poverty stricken communities.

The confectionery industry relies so heavily on cocoa, the cocoa bean brings the flavour, a factor that cannot be substituted by anything; the cocoa flavour is unique. According to the Confectionery Production Magazine, figures show that the requirement for cocoa purely as a flavouring agent for chocolate is at 0.6m tonnes of the 4.7m tonnes currently produced. Cocoa beans are also used for their fat properties, however the melting behavior of its fat can be, and is already being, reproduced by the engineering of other more widely available fats. This is one aspect that can help the cocoa industry, as by using cocoa purely as a flavouring source and not for its fats too, this would reduce the demand for cocoa from its current level of 4.7m tonnes to 2.7m tonnes says the magazine.

On the upside according to the European Cocoa Association the latest annual results show that 1.378 metric tonnes of cocoa was ground in 2017, which is up slightly from 1,343 metric tonnes being ground in 2016. Even though the Ivory Coast lost thousands of hectares of orchards due to disease in the past, it still produced a record harvest of 2.15 million tonnes for the 2016/2017 season.

Clearly all the factors affecting the sustainability of cocoa production need to be addressed. However, it may be years before the cocoa industry sees any positive changes, but the words of Debenham run true, “if we do it together we can solve the problem!”

Here at Ragus we understand the importance of supporting the confectionery and chocolate industry as we supply pure sugars for ingredients to many of the major food and drinks companies that are involved with the cocoa industry. Ragus is the leading independent importer and manufacturer of pure sugar products, including crystalline sugars, syrups and treacles, occupying a unique position in the European sugar market, and indeed in history.

We have been sourcing and manufacturing natural sugars for over 85 years and alongside our Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Sedex accreditations, we undertake visits to our suppliers, including supplier brokers, mills and plantations, thus we understand the importance of supporting our sugarcane suppliers on every level.

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Plastic Fantastic – No it really isn’t!

Apr 12 2018

It may be a catchy pop tune, but we don’t all live in a Barbie world, life in plastic is definitely NOT fantastic! We live in the real world and the battle to rid our planet of the dangers of plastic is a problem that is becoming more and more apparent.

According to the UN environmental programme, our oceans now contain more than ’51 trillion micro plastic particles’. That’s a scary thought, but even more worrying is that in less than 40 years it’s predicted that our oceans will contain more plastic than fish, and humans are now starting to unknowingly eat it too.

Every year an estimated eight million tonnes of the plastic enters our oceans, and this will just increase more and more over time. Already ‘plastic is a regular feature along the coastlines of Indonesian beaches, settling on to the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain on to our dinner tables’, says Erik Solheim, head of the UNEP.

Delivery of the finished sugar product to customers is the final stage of the journey. The latest logistics technologies are used to plan deliveries and achieve industry-leading delivery performance standards for on-time and in-full order fulfillment. Sugar products are shipped across the globe to both small artisan food producers and major multinationals.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bearing this threat in mind the food and drinks manufacturing industries are under immense pressure to come up with new ways of branding and packaging their goods. The food and drink industry have used plastic packing since the 1930s. Plastic unfortunately is used in every stage of the industries process from ‘manufacturing to retail’. So, obviously the food and drink industry are being put in an uncomfortable situation by being encouraged to stop using plastics altogether.

Besides there being too much plastic, the main problem with it is that it doesn’t biodegrade. No natural process can break it down. So what’s the solution? Sharon Todd, head of marketing at glass manufacturer Ardagh says ‘there are no reasons why there can’t be a return to glass packaging for many popular food and drink items.’ Glass is completely non-toxic and also offers excellent food preservation qualities. However, John Haken, director at WF Denny, packaging and partyware specialists, suggests that to change packaging from plastics to other materials ‘could increase the cost of items by 20%’, which again proves a problem as are consumers willing to pay extra for their food and drink items?

Initiatives are being set up amongst manufacturers and major food retailers to help combat the ever-increasing battle of the plastics. However, many people believe that returning to using glass or aluminum as packaging is reverting back in time. Supermarket giant Iceland’s director for sustainability, Richard Walker disagrees though, he offers that ‘the onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waster, to take a stand and deliver a meaningful change.’ Iceland is currently working with Europe’s last cellulose factory to come up with a solution.

“Here at Ragus we have been investing in technology that helps reduce our carbon emissions, water consumption and packaging efficiencies since 2007. In 2013 Ragus moved into a state of the art refinery, one of the most advanced of its kind operating a closed system resulting in the manufacturing being highly resource efficient. The Ragus factory’s suppliers and services such as the delivery tanker fleet and laundry supplies also operate sustainably. Virtually all our packaging is recycled, and the plasti-pallets and larger storage containers for transport are asset managed. This ensures they come back to us to be cleaned and reused. Simple steps such as introducing coloured sampling and decanting buckets, means they can be washed and not thrown away”.

Ben Eastick, Director at Ragus

For more information on products and on our flexible packing solutions contact sales@ragus.co.uk.

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GLOBAL SUGAR PRODUCTION EXPECTED TO EXCEED CONSUMPTION

Apr 06 2018

Truck_Sugar_Cane

Globally, sugar output is expected to exceed consumption by 6.5 million tonnes for the production year 2017/18, after two years of production trailing consumption.

Production in Thailand is currently up by 22% for the year and is set for a record harvest, above last year’s 10.2 mln tonnes.

India, the world’s largest sugar consumer and the world’s second largest producer, currently has enough sugar piled up in warehouses to make three chocolate cakes for every single person on earth! Thus, 2018 will see India become a net exporter after being a net importer last year, releasing an estimated 1.5 million tonnes onto the global market.

Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), has revised the country’s 2017/18 sugar production upward by about 13% at 29.5 million tonnes from its second advance estimate of 26.1 mln tonnes early this year. Abinash Verma, director general of the Indian Sugar Mills Association has indicated that the current planting trend shows that sugar production in 2018/19 may be even higher than this season.

The bumper crops are not only seen in India and Thailand, but are mirrored in Pakistan, EU, China and the Commonwealth of Independent States, all of which are now recording record production and exports to the global market.

Production in the European Union is expected to rise from 16.9million tons to a record 20.1 mln tonnes on higher area and yields. Exports are forecast to rise a whopping 60% to 2.5 mln tonnes on greater exportable supplies.

Due to acreage expansion, production in China is currently expected to improve to 11.5 mln tonnes in 2017/18, up from 10.1 mln tonnes in 2016/17.

However, Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer is opting to produce more ethanol than sugar.

The increased sugar production in the 2017/18 sugar season is due to increased acreage, better rains in growing areas and new stronger varieties being cultivated.

History suggests sugar was first produced in Polynesia and later India, around 500 BC. It is primarily derived from sugarcane, which on average, accounts for about 80% of global sugar production, but other sugar sources include sugar beets, the date palm, sorghum, and the sugar maple.

Here at Ragus we have a long heritage in sugar and continuously follow and report on the global sugar industry. We are always ready, willing and available to discuss any questions, issues or problems regarding your pure sugar needs. We supply pure sugars for ingredients for the bakery, confectionery, pharmaceutical and brewery industries.

Please contact sales@ragus.co.uk or visit www.ragus.co.uk for more information.

 

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