Fair Trade Chocolate
Straight From the Motherland

February 13, 2009

Burlap bag full of fermented cocoa beans

Okay, well maybe not straight from the Motherland. Why? Because although over 70 percent of cocoa beans come from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire alone, most chocolate is produced in countries such as the U.S., France, England and Belgium. In fact, most cocoa farmers have never even tasted chocolate.

The cocoa tree (theobroma cacao) is indigenous to South America, but as a result of colonial times, Africa became the top producer of cocoa beans and it remains so today. Along with large multi-national chocolate manufacturers, we rely on West African farmers for the majority of chocolate produced in the United States.

Image 1: Close up stack of dark chocolate squares; Image 2: Image of cocoa farmer's two hands cupped together holding fermented cocoa beans

Despite our indulgence in 3.3 billion pounds of chocolate each year (spending $13 billion), especially around days like Valentine’s Day, most consumers aren’t aware that the majority of cocoa farmers get only five cents for every dollar spent on chocolate (according to Global Exchange). Nor have most chocolate lovers heard of the reports of the worst forms of child labor occurring on West African cocoa farms (particularly in Cote d’Ivoire).

Issues such as these can be daunting to those of us living thousands of miles away who are used to, and want to continue, enjoying certain consumer goods yet don’t want our privilege to exploit others – particularly our distant cousins in the motherland. However, there is something you can do to make sure cocoa farmers are paid a fair price for their work and that the chocolate you enjoy isn’t produced with slavery or the worst forms of child labor – buy Fair Trade certified chocolate.

Fair Trade certified chocolate is available using cocoa beans from regularly monitored and farmer-owned cooperatives in Ghana, Cameroon, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Belize. Farmers who are part of Fair Trade cooperatives are guaranteed a fair price for their cocoa beans, and this improves their abilities to feed their families and send their children to school.

Image 1: Fair Trade Organic chocolate bars in wrappers with close up of Fair Trade logo; Image 2: Photo of wall with a photo of cocoa beans on it

One of my favorite brands of Fair Trade chocolate is Divine Chocolate.  The suppliers of Divine Chocolate’s cocoa beans – Ghanaian farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo co-op – not only own the co-op, but they also own 1/3 of the chocolate company itself!

Take a look at the resources below for more information on Fair Trade chocolate (especially the recording of Democracy Now’s show on this very topic last Valentine’s Day), and go out and purchase chocolate that you can be sure was ethically produced. Show some love, not only to your valentine, but also to cocoa farmers and their families.

This post is a part of my weekly, month-long celebration of chocolate.

More Information
Democracy Now Radio – “Chocolate’s Bittersweet Economy” – 2/14/08
Global Exchange
Transfair USA

Fair Trade Chocolate Brands
Divine Chocolate USA (1/3 owned by Kuapa Kokoo Co-op – Ghana)
Equal Exchange
Theo Chocolate

Where to Buy
Global Exchange Fair Trade Online Store
The Culture Shop (Online and in Washington, D.C.)
Whole Foods Market, Earth Fare, Other Natural Foods stores
World Market

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Straight From the Motherland
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