We all love chocolate, a rich indulgence that brings with it a rush of endorphins. But there is a dark secret to cheap chocolate - that millions of cacao farmers live on just half of the UN's absolute poverty threshold (currently £1.43 / day). That's just 72p a day to live on for farmers supporting an industry worth £33,000,000,000 globally.
A quick Google will reveal bars of well known chocolate brands for less than 1p per gram of chocolate. In many supermarkets you can get their own label chocolate bars for as little as 0.3p / gram - ultimately it is cocoa the famers who are the ones who pay the cost of chocolate being such a low price.
So, what is it that you can do to make better choices when it comes to the chocolate you buy? Opinions vary on what a fair price is but you can start by considering options such as Fairtrade chocolate
Seed & Bean
is an example of a manufacturer who look to improve standards by only using Fairtrade chocolate. Fairtrade aims to support farmer and worker communities by promoting a certain standard of living and better working environments in some of the poorest parts of the world that are often exploited. Behind every bar of chocolate there are globally six million people who depend on growing cocoa for their livelihoods. The Fairtrade ethos aims to provide small-scale farmer organisations with more stable incomes and ensure decent working conditions so that they and their families can plan for better futures. It is then the producers themselves who decide how the Fairtrade Premiums should be invested; whether it’s on in better schooling, transport, healthcare or equipment.
Brands like Love Cocoa
take a different approach to giving more back to cocoa farmers. Much of their chocolate comes from Colombia where the beans are processed after farming in order to keep more wealth for the chocolate within the local economy (as opposed to being taken out of the country for processing like many large scale chocolate manufacturers). They also have a "Plant A Tree" project where for every bar of chocolate sold they will plant one tree in West Africa where the world’s chocolate industry is driving deforestation on a particularly devastating scale. Once a home to wildlife with the likes of chimpanzees, leopards, and elephants, forests are being destroyed for the cultivation of cocoa by big industrial players. Deforestation in Africa is happening 4x faster than the global rate, resulting in an average loss of approx. 40,000 square kilometers per year. The world’s biggest producer of cocoa, the Côte d’Ivoire, lost 85% of its forests between 1990 and 2015 due to the global demand for chocolate. This means approximately 28,000 plant and animal species are expected to become extinct in the next 25 years due to deforestation.
Kim's Chocolates, makers of the Cachet
brand, are attempting to make the lives of chocolate farming communities better through their "Cocoa for Schools
" project. Founder of Kim's Chocolatae ,Fons Maex, first went to Tanzania to visit cocoa farmers in 2010. He saw farmers, children and entire communities facing many difficulties. Tanzania's climate makes it ideal for cocoa cultivation but it's farming communities lack the necessary resources in order to properly benefit from this fully. Cocoa for Schools hope to reach their goal of 2,100 classrooms and offices by their 12th year, in which they will distribute around 430,000 books, educating children and fortifying Tanzanian communities. The project also works closely with the cocoa farmers, applying agricultural training, distributing new cocoa seedlings, and providing solar powered electricity generators.
Undoubtedly the issue of cocoa farmers being exploited is neither an easy one to fix or something that can happen overnight. But in the Western World we can have an awful lot of effect on how this industry continues to evolve simply with the purchasing choices we make. Supporting brands that are trying to make the industry a more ethical one is key, be they bean to bar manufacturers
or those investing in the communities who produce the cacao.
It is perhaps too easy to say you should not buy cheap chocolate but I would encourage you to consider the real costs of its production in terms of its effects on famers and their communities. Chocolate is a treat that so many enjoy - it can taste all the sweeter when it is giving back to those whose livelihoods depend on its growth.