Chocolate – Worth its weight in Gold

This may be the most concerning news I have heard for a long time

Fancy a bit of chocolate? An afternoon Kit Kat with your cup of tea? A chunk of fruit and nut? Go on, you’ve earned it.  Except that in the future, chocoholics might have to work quite a bit harder to pay for their fix. The world could run out of affordable chocolate within 20 years as farmers abandon their crops in the global cocoa basket of West Africa, industry experts claim…. Read the entire article

My first reaction is to be amused by the news but then I start to think – what does it mean?  Part of what it means is that those who grow our chocolate don’t get paid enough to make it worthwhile.

Most of our chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast region of West Africa, where cocoa production is an enormous part of the economy. In Ghana, 40 percent of the country’s export revenues come from the sale of cocoa. Unfortunately, very little of the profit goes to the farmers who grow the cocoa beans. Cocoa farmers receive about a penny for a candy bar selling for 60 cents.

In fact, the difficulty in making a living at cocoa farming has spawned an increase in child and even slave labor drawn from poor neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. Children and other workers are forced to work long days picking and processing cocoa beans (it takes 400 of these pods to make just one pound of chocolate). Very few of the children have the opportunity to attend school.

This is quite an issue in Europe where many countries have gone entirely fair trade chocolate.  But here in the U.S there is only one company – Theo chocolates that is fair trade bean-to-bar.  Of course there are many other fair trade chocolates available – like Divine chocolate which in my opinion really does live up to its name.  The New American Dream website has a great list of fair trade chocolate brands. – which suggests to me that fair traded chocolate should really be part of the new American dream.

So as you make your Christmas lists and reach for those stocking filling chocolates this year, remember those who produce it – at the least say a prayer, and if possible make sure that the chocolate you buy is fair trade certified.



5 Responses

  1. It’s interesting how sustainability is so intrinsically tied to issues of justice. The more crops we harvest (often in very unsustainable ways), the less farmers get in return. We eat chocolate (LOTS of it, and at an apparently unsustainable rate), and farmers in Ghana get a penny per bar (if we ate less of it and were willing to pay more, farmers could get more in return) and children are forced to work the fields to match our insatiable appetite.

    So when we think about sustainability, it’s not just for the environment’s sake. It also applies to individuals and communities, to systems.

    Here’s to a less-is-more orientation: better for the Earth, better for Humanity.

  2. Brian that is so true. So often when we say something is expensive what we mean is that we are unwilling to curb our appetites in order to make life easier for others

  3. Hi Christine, thanks for this. For six years, my family lived in a cocoa village in Ivory Coast, where we were translating the Scriptures.

    There are two key injustices in the system. The first is the way in which the traders who actually export the cooca refuse to pay a fair price to the farmers. The fact that the farmers are often unlettered doesn’t help here – they don’t realise they are being ripped off.

    Secondly, the restrictions that are placed on Ivorian exports impoverish the country. Effectively, they are only allowed to export unprocessed cocoa beans, rather than manufactured chocolate or any other ‘value-added’ product.

    I would be cautious about claims regarding child slavery. In all of the time I lived there (I was in the country for twelve years in total) I never saw signs of forced child labour. Yes, kids would work on their family farms and many families could not afford to send their offspring to school, but this is different to child trafficking. I’m not saying that the trafficking doesn’t happen. Put as one of the rare westerners who has lived for a long time in that part of the world and who speaks one of the local languages, I never saw any sign of it.

    • Eddie, I appreciate your comments. As you can imagine I am drawing on other people’s reports here. One I read estimated that 287,000 children are used as slave labour to grow and produce chocolate. If that is not the case then I am very grateful.
      It has been my experience too that often it is the unwillingness of traders to pay a fair price that is a big part of the problem which is why we need to work for not only increased awareness but also for more just systems that guarantee the farmers a fair price

  4. I was so delighted that Cadbury’s decided to make it’s Dairy Milk bar from fairly traded chocolate. I try wherever possible to buy fairly traded goods. I appreciate your post as it reminds me to stay true to this. It’s so easy to just go with the flow forget how important it is to buy products that do not exploit those who produce it. The other great company who make fair trade chocolate is Green and Blacks – not all their products are fairly traded but a good number are i believe.

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