The Darker Side of Chocolate…

By Amy Evans: Campaign Intern, Fair Trade Wales.

 

We are a nation of chocolate lovers. Last year, the average person in Wales consumed a massive 7.5 kg of the stuff- that’s the same weight as 15 bags of Tate and Lyle Fairtrade Granulated Sugar! [1] And, with sales of Easter chocolate making up 10% of all chocolate spending for the entire year, business is booming as usual for big international chocolate companies. But what about the 6 million cocoa farmers who grow the essential ingredient that goes into making our favourite treat?[2] 

Unfortunately, life for cocoa farmers isn’t sweet.

Growing cocoa is labour intensive because cocoa trees are a sensitive crop, requiring protection from the wind, sun, pests, and, disease (which is sadly on the increase). [3] Cocoa pods tend to ripen at different times too, meaning that the trees have to be monitored continuously. Typically the farmer’s children end up helping out, exposing them to dangerous work and preventing them from going to school. They use tools such as machetes and work with hazardous pesticides, often without gloves or protective clothing. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million children are working in dangerous conditions on cocoa farms in West Africa alone.[4]

Cocoa farming also offers little return for all this hard work. It takes a whole year’s crop from one tree to make just half a kilo of cocoa. Even worse, farmers don’t know how much they are going to get paid for their produce because the price of cocoa varies each harvest. The money they receive often falls below what it costs them to grow the cocoa beans in the first place!

But Fairtrade can help to make a difference.

Fairtrade cocoa has a fair minimum price of $2,000 (£1352) per ton, with a $200 (£135) premium per ton on top of that for farmers to democratically invest in their business or the local community.[5] This makes cocoa farming more sustainable so farmers can better provide for themselves and for their families. A fair wage means that farmers can afford to buy equipment and employ farm-hands, instead of keeping their children home from school.

Addae Mensah Joseph, a cocoa farmer from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative says: “Fairtrade is a good thing for farmers like me. We earn more, but it also means we get help and advice with farming practices and learn new skills, becoming better farmers.” [6]

Chocolate may not be ground from the beans of happiness as the Alex F. Hope quote above suggests, but Fairtrade can certainly go a long way in ensuring the happiness of cocoa farmers worldwide.

So do something amazing this Easter. Switch to chocolate with the Fairtrade Certified Mark and make sure that the farmers who grow your cocoa get a fair minimum wage for their efforts. You wouldn’t work for less than minimum wage, so why should they?

With Fairtrade Easter Eggs available in all good local supermarkets from ethical companies like Divine, Green and Blacks, The Meaningful Chocolate Company, Cocoa Loco, and more, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

If you can’t find a Fairtrade Easter Egg where you usually shop, then why not take up the quick and easy Stock-It Challenge? For more details, click here:

 

 References:

[1]  The Chocolate League Tables 2014: http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=38038 [accessed 30/03/15]

[2]  The Fairtrade Foundation, ‘About Cocoa’, http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/farmers-and-workers/cocoa/about-cocoa [accessed 30/03/15]

[3] The Fairtrade Foundation, ‘Cocoa’, http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/farmers-and-workers/cocoa [accessed 30/03/15]

[5] See 2.

[6] Dubble, ‘Fairtrade Chocolate,’  http://www.dubble.co.uk/fairtrade/fairtrade-chocolate [accessed 30/05/15]

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