Who Grows your Chocolate?
It’s hard to imagine for some how our spending habits affect others in the world on a typical shopping day. If you buy organic or fresh produce at a local farm stand or belong to a CSA to support your local economy you understand economics 101. But not all your needs are met by your local farms, if you are fortunate to have any in your area. Simply put, Fair Trade or Direct Trade is the global answer to your local farm stand. However, it’s much more than that.
Cocoa before harvest
The Certified Fair Trade label on chocolate and other products, such as coffee, tea, sugar, vanilla and even flowers, guarantees consumers that the farmers who grew thecrops are 1) paid a fair price for their harvest; 2) members of democratically organized cooperatives; and 3) have access to affordable credit. The Fair Trade price allows farmers to cover their costs of production as well as afford a decent standard of living for their families, send their children to school and invest in the quality of their farms. The Fair Trade label also guarantees environmentally friendly foods that are 85% certified organic and have the highest quality in flavor and nutritional value.
Note: organic certification is an expense to small farmers. A lot of traditionally farmed cacao is produced ‘organically’ by default since farmers are not able to afford pesticides. Neither can they afford the expense of certification to meet Western organic standards.
Direct Trade – Most chocolate makers (who’s chocolate I use at my chocolate tasting/wine pairing events) have a direct business
relationship with the farmers. Partner – growers make asmuch as 4 times more than Fair Trade. Cooperatives and chocolate makers work together to create bean-to-bar chocolate from heirloom cacao. Imagine partnering with the source of cocoa so everyone benefits?
Free Trade is not so free! There is a dark side to the conventional economic system, where millions of people around the world are not being valued. Many people work in inhumane conditions and receive less than a livable wage and many are forced to work for no wages at all, especially children.
If ethically traded chocolate is not available locally, ask your grocer. Links to online and New York based shops are listed on the “Where to Buy” tab.
“It’s important to teach growers to assess flavor and protect it by empowering them to breed new varieties that are both disease resistant and flavorful,” Gary Guittard, CEO of Guittard Chocolate Co., says. “We need healthy diversity in an ecologic sense. That’s adding tools to the chocolate maker for different applications and uses.”
These videos reveal how greed dominates the West African countries in the trafficking of children to harvest cacao.
Links to news articles
Bitter Sweet – Fortune Magazine – Child labor in W. Africa supplies Hershey, Mars, Nestlé, and Cadbury
Rare cacao beans discovered in Peru – NY Times
Why does your chocolate tasting so bad? – Newsweek
The Future of Chocolate – Huffington Post