LONDON (Reuters) - Nestle, the world's biggest food company, says it has made significant progress removing cocoa produced in protected forests in West Africa from its supply chain as pressure builds from consumers and governments for ethically sourced cocoa.
The company said it had mapped, using GPS co-ordinates, 75% of the 120,000 cocoa farms it sources from directly in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which produce some two thirds of the world's cocoa.
It found around 3,700 farms in protected forests in the process of mapping, and removed them from its supply chain.
Nestle sources nearly 80% of its cocoa directly in Ivory Coast and Ghana and expects to finish mapping its direct supply chain by October. It aims to have 100% sustainable cocoa sourcing in its confectionary products by 2025.
The company undertook the mapping as part of its pledges under the Cocoa and Forests initiative (CFI), an agreement to end deforestation signed at the 2017 U.N. Climate Change Conference by Ivory Coast, Ghana and 24 cocoa trading firms and chocolate makers, including Ferrero, Lindt, Mondelez, Olam and Cargill [ABNO.UL].
"We have made good progress across all the primary objectives we set out under our CFI action plan," Alexander von Maillot, Head of Confectionery at NestlÃ©, said in a statement.
"Our actions take into account the need to balance forest protection and communities' livelihoods," he added.
Ivory Coast estimates some 40% its cocoa comes from protected areas, providing livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of farmers and their families.
It has lost around 80% of its forest cover in the last 50 years and if deforestation continues unabated, the West African nation risks losing all its forest cover by 2034, environmental campaigners say.
Chocolate makers have spent millions of dollars on programs aimed at ridding their cocoa supply chains from child labor and deforestation. Their attempts have so far had little success on the ground, prompting western governments to increasingly look to legislate.
(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Mark Potter)