Global warming ‘a threat to crops like cocoa and coffee’

Global firms such as Mars are responding to climate change
Global firms such as Mars are responding to climate change

Common commodities such as cocoa and coffee are under threat from global warming, businesses have warned as they backed a strong climate deal at international talks in Paris.

Barry Parkin, global sustainability director at Mars, said the company sourced much of its supply chain of products, from cocoa to sugar, mint and vanilla, from smallholder farmers who are threatened by rising temperatures.

“We’re a food company, based on agriculture, and when you look at agriculture, we buy from the equivalent of about a million farmers, and most of those farmers, large numbers of them, are smallholder family farmers in the developing world, who are often subsistence farming, and they are the most vulnerable,” he said.

As such, the company is taking steps to play its part in cutting emissions with a target to go zero carbon by 2040, a wind farm in the US the size of Paris that meets the equivalent of all the electricity needs of operations in North America and working towards zero deforestation, he said.

Mars is also working with farmers to improve their efficiency, boost yields and incomes and breed crops that are climate resilient, for example cocoa in west Africa that is more drought resistant.

“It’s good for the farmers, everyone wants the farmers to be successful, but it’s also good for business, because we’re reliant on these materials,” Mr Parkin said.

The company knows that if it does not help farmers cope with climate change, and they are not successful, they will find something else to do.