Cargill's Cocoa & Chocolate business has handed over the first UTZ CERTIFIED premiums to two farmer cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire. The two farmer cooperatives - Co-operative Agricole de Fiedifoue and Coopaga - received over U.S. $400,000 (200,000,000 CFA) for deliveries of UTZ CERTIFIED sustainable cocoa beans since the beginning of October 2009.

The premiums will be shared amongst the cooperatives and their members totalling almost 1,600 farmers. More than half of the overall amount is going directly to farmers according to their individual deliveries since the beginning of October. For maximum transparency farmers are able to consult the list of the deliveries they made and check against the related amount that is payable to them. The remainder of the money is retained by the farmer cooperatives to strengthen their operations, help improve their organisation and provide support to all of their farmer members.

"We are delighted to be able to hand over these premiums to the farmer cooperatives," said Harold Poelma, managing director of cocoa, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. "The UTZ CERTIFIED cocoa programme was set-up to help produce cocoa more sustainably and to improve the incomes and livelihoods of the farmers that produce it. These premiums recognise the hard work undertaken by the farmers and demonstrate that we are fulfilling our aims."

The UTZ CERTIFIED cocoa programme - co-founded by Cargill, along with Dutch development organisation Solidaridad and others in the cocoa sector - has introduced independent certification to improve agricultural, environmental and social practices in cocoa production. It is supporting small-scale farmers to improve their farming practices, thereby producing a higher quality crop with increased productivity. The certification of the cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire was the result of an intensive 10 month training programme run by Cargill for the farmers in the cooperatives.

Cargill's farmer training programme has resulted in farmers benefitting from a 30% increase in their incomes from higher yields, as well as an improvement in the quality of their crop. The better quality and compliance with UTZ CERTIFIED standards is being rewarded with these first payments of the UTZ Certification premium.

"We believe training farmers to increase yields, improve quality and adopt more sustainable practices can directly contribute to increased earnings for cocoa farmers," continued Harold Poelma. "While increases for each farmer may vary depending on the market price, quality and yields, farmers who adopt better farming practices are benefitting from higher incomes, as well as improving their long-term success."

During the 10 month Farmer Field School training programme, farmers are trained in good and safe practices focusing on farming techniques and post-harvest activities such as pruning, plantation renewal and cocoa fermentation methods. In addition the programme also stresses broader social aspects, such as the importance of ensuring children's education and HIV awareness.

To continue to support cocoa farmers in Cote d'Ivoire, Cargill has made a commitment to train 10,000 farmers in 300 Farmer Field Schools across 35 cooperatives by the end of 2010. The Farmer Field Schools will enable cooperatives to become UTZ CERTIFIED, and this means that by the end of this year more than 10,000 tonnes of cocoa beans will be available for use in sustainably certified chocolate and cocoa products.