Fair Trade Chocolate
Small family farms made up of 5 to 6 million small farmers generate more than 85 per cent of the world’s cocoa crop. Most families own 1 to 5 acres where 1,000 cacao trees can produce fruit anywhere from 75 to 100 years. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the crop is lost to disease and pests. Economic and political conditions of cacao producing countries along the equator (West Africa, Central and South America) can be volatile. As a result training and equipment can be lacking.
Cocaopro, a unit of Mars, Inc., states, "the issues facing cocoa–the chocolate industry needs a stable supply of raw ingredients; environmental groups seek to preserve the natural habitats that cocoa creates; donor organizations aim to raise rural incomes; cocoa farmers need a dependable source of income, and governments look to support domestic agricultures–most efforts by these groups prior to 1998 were limited in scope, and not coordinated in any strategic or cohesive way."
Since 1998 interested groups have come together around a solution–sustainable agriculture. Mars. Inc. also got together with the Smithsonian to organize the First International Workshop on Sustainable Cocoa Growing. The event brought together ornithologists, plant scientists, environmental advocates and chocolate industry scientists to discuss cocoa cultivation system that is biologically, environmentally and socially beneficial.
Chocolate lovers can ease the guilt factor by supporting small family farms in these countries by buying fair trade chocolate. Fair-trade products aim to eliminate the middlemen and let the farmers deal directly with buyers. According to TransFair USA, a fair trade certification group, less than 1% of the $13 billion U.S. chocolate market is fair-trade certified, but it’s a growing market, from 2003 to 2004, sales grew 78%. As a comparison farmers typically get about $160 per metric ton of cocoa, but by removing the middleman fair-trade farmers sell through co-ops and can typically be paid paid $225 to $300 per ton in while also benefiting from the social programs. Based on some price comparisons fair trade chocolate ends up being about the same cost as higher end boutique chocolate.
Lutheran World Relief has one of the largest fair-trade chocolate programs, selling through parishes and online. The chocolate distributor of choice is the UK-based Divine Chocolate. The bars are part of local congregation’s fund raising programs.
Divine Chocolate as their fair trade partner website states "beans that go into every bar of Divine Chocolate are grown by Kuapa Kokoo a 45,000 member, farmer owned cooperative in Ghana. Not only do these farmers receive Fair Trade premiums for their cocoa beans, they are part owners of the Divine Chocolate brand."
One of my favorite organic, fair trade chocolate bars is produced by Dagoba Chocolate founded in 2000 by chocolatier Frederick Schilling. The Xocolatl (74%) is a combination of cocoa nibs, Peruvian Aji and Amarillo chili peppers with notes of vanilla and nutmeg. The New Moon (74%) is their top seller. Trader Joe’s often has them available for sale or visit Shop Natural.