27: Where did the chocolate in your cake come from?

fair trade; chocolate; cocoa; chocolate cake; chocolate cake day

Who doesn’t love chocolate cake, especially a scrumptious looking one like this! But where does the chocolate come from? (Cake and photography – Pete Cunningham-Sees)

Today is Chocolate Cake Day. While we fully encourage you to indulge, we also ask you stop and consider the impact of the cocoa trade and its impact on those working the land to provide us with the chocolate we so much desire.

Why buy FAIRtRADE Chocolate?

Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the world’s favourite food- but growing cocoa is not an easy task.

90% of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms who earn their living by growing and selling cocoa beans. Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop that must be  protected from sun, wind, pests and disease. Despite their hard work, farmers gain very little from global cocoa trade.  Even with an increasing demand for cocoa beans and its rising price, farmers do not receive sufficient benefits. They remain in poverty as their income fails to cover household expenses and  production costs.

This is why incentives like Fairtrade have come about. Organisations like these aim to get a better deal for farmers working for too small a wage. It helps to make cocoa farming  more sustainable by investing in business or community projects to help farmers provide a better future for themselves and their community.  To win the Fairtrade tag, companies have to pay farmers higher than the market price for their products. This protects farmers from instabilities in the market and gives them extra money to invest in education for their children and other social needs.

Critiques of the Fairtrade Chocolate Industry

In recent months, Fairtrade has come under scrutiny. Many consumers believe that fair trade producers are not receiving higher incomes relative to the rise in demand for cocoa. In addition, the market rate they received does not necessarily equate to ‘a living wage.’

Researchers have also argued that Fairtrade results in a ‘poverty trap.’ The Fairtrade certification systems are costly and complex, meaning farmer cooperatives need to rely on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for financial support. This creates barriers to entering fair trade markets, as only those who can afford it can gain certification or market access.

Some consumers argue that the original Fairtrade principles have been ‘watered down.’ The Fairtrade system now allows companies to display the Fairtrade mark who only use as little as 20% Fairtrade cocoa.

Stick with it!

In response to the accusations, Fairtrade International have launched a new sourcing program. The Fairtrade Cocoa Program allows companies to purchase a percentage of Fairtrade cocoa. Those companies in the program have the option to use the following mark

Cocoa beans; fair-trade; Latin America; Caribbean; Dominican Republic

A new start for Fairtrade cocoa farmers through the cocoa programme. (Original photo – Marvin del Cid, Dominican Republic)

Only the companies that source all their ingredients as Fairtrade can use the full Fairtrade mark.

What does the Fairtrade Cocoa Program mean for Farmers?

The Fairtrade Cocoa Program allows farmers to sell their cocoa beans on Fairtrade terms to more types of companies. The farmers receive the same Fairtrade benefits, including Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium and enables farmers to invest more in their farm land and communities.

In 2012, Fairtrade cocoa farmers received around €7 million in Fairtrade Premium money.  As they develop the Fairtrade Cocoa Program, they look forward to seeing that number grow.

Introducing… Divine CHOCOLATE

Divine is the only Fairtrade  chocolate company which is 45% owned by cocoa farmers.

A number of leading farmers in Ghana set up a company, to sell their own cocoa to the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC), the state-owned company that would continue to be the single exporter of Ghana cocoa.

While Fairtrade  ensures farmers receive a better deal for their cocoa and additional income to invest in their community, company ownership gives farmers a share of Divine’s profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry.

These farmers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers’ co-op, which would trade its own cocoa, and thus manage the selling process more efficiently than the government cocoa agents. Kuapa Kokoo’s mission is to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in all of Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa.

“Those who impact positively on the lives of others shall forever live in the memory of the heart.”  – PCK Buah, President, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

Kuapa Kokoo, which means means good cocoa growers, has the motto “pa pa paa” – which means “the best of the best” in the local Twi language.

Take a look at this sweet animation that tells the amazing story of Divine in a nutshell.

Find out more about the Divine Chocolate Story here.

Research and writing – Lucy Bainbridge


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