Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Bittersweet!!! To be or not to be?? Do I stop eating branded chocolate - that is the question??

A documentary on the BBC the other day about the production of Cocoa in the Ivory Coast got me thinking. Unfortunately or Fortunately (depending on the way you look at it) the program pulled on my heartstrings and now I have banned myself from eating non fair trade chocolate (how long will that last??). Truth be told I am actually really torn.

This is one commodity market/ industry that has been tarnished with the negative brush. The system works with cocoa farmers in some West African countries, and then middle people selling off the beans to the chocolate giants/brand owners. The profits though, don’t come into play until they get into the hands of the middle people who then sell off these raw materials to the giants. A lot of these cocoa farmers are left with no choice but to accept diabolical amounts for the sale of their produce and they have been doing this for years.

Cocoa is possibly one of the better-known commodities worldwide yet the most common finished product of all CHOCOLATE is extremely well known in the West but not as known where the actual beans are derived. Sometimes life will draw you the short straw but then again is it okay for others to take advantage. The farmers come along and are forced to ensure that the quality of the cocoa is high. Ironically the quality of life of these farmers remains worryingly low. The middle people trade on the stock market and in turn influence the price. Yet those in the stock markets in New York and London are the major determinants of the price.

Strangely enough the revenue generated by the cocoa farmers has actually remained the same for years in comparison to a constant increase in the actual price that the brand owners charge. So simply put those who produce the cocoa are not the same people who profit and benefit from it. The worst part for me was when the BBC reporter gave a cocoa farmer of 30+ years chocolate biscuits and his expression was a Kodak moment. (that was his first time ever eating the finished product)

As a result I am now guilt ridden and I have banned myself from touching any chocies that are not fair trade. Trying to be ethical is not easy!!!!! But I feel helpless because I would like the situation to be different!!! So I ask is fair trade chocolate the Way forward? Honestly my understanding of the fair trade process is still slightly shaky. What I have derived so far is that the farmers get about three times as much as they normally would through the fair trade process, which I am guessing, is reflected in the price?? So companies negotiate with the actual farmers and agree on a fair price for the product?? Fair trade products generally cost more than other products. For example the coffee costs about £3.99 for a massive can, double choc chip cookies cost £1.29 and the divine chocolate bar cost about £0.50 from an Oxfam shop. Now I don’t know what they put in those bars but they do taste DIVINE!! (It melts in your mouth and tastes so yummy – okay I am diverting)

Organisations such as Oxfam are trying to make a difference and a lot of companies are jumping on the ‘fair trade’ bandwagon. But listening to the BBC reporter questioning the lady who was representing the major chocolate producers (non of the companies were willing to come forward so they sent a representative) it is clear we have a long way to go. The lady representing the major giants made it clear that they were not ready to budge even with the talk of children as young as 5 being forced to work on these farms. But can you blame them. If a certain situation benefits you why would you want to change it??

I honestly wish I could tell these farmers how to take control and market their products so that ‘they’ have the upper hand. But then again from a pessimistic viewpoint these brand owners are not called giants for nothing. So really is this just another lost cause?? Or can I actually create some awareness and start something positive??


Anonymous said...

Change the colour of your text!

Nanya said...

Are you familiar with the song 'if everyone cared' by nickelback? Anyways I love the quote in the video where it says dont doubt that anything but a small group of people are able to create change; in fact in history its the only thing that has. Basically, Im saying even if this is a small thing that you feel strongly about do your small lil bit to help. I hadnt given much thought to free trade chocolate but I would definitely rather support a smaller more ethical company than a big business that just makes big $ and doesnt care about the treatment of people in their industry.

Anonymous said...

this actually reminds me of Blood Diamond as in the conflict diamond and all..This is conflict choclate...dis post really educated me small..Anywayz welcome to blogville..i am a new blogger as well

snazzy said...

I will give you that fair trade can be argued to be a step in the right direction, even though it is mostly diverts trade as opposed to improving farmers lots (one farmer goes up, another goes down). There are two main problems with the cocoa farmers. They sell raw materials when they should be selling semi-finished product at the very least. All the money is in the value add. Second thing is that there is limited access to overseas which makes it a buyers market and keeps prices low. Aiight I'm done.

Gold Mine said...

@Nanya, i am now familiar with the 'if everyone cared' video and i love is amazing how one person can have a massive impact!!

@Pink-satin.. thanks.. blogville is fun..

@Snazzy. i guess right now the only option i have in moving in the right direction is fair trade. but the eyes and taste buds are weak! the situation with most of these cocoa farmers is that a lot of them don't have the resources to make the semi-finished products and as a result they are stuck in a rut..but will the tables turn??

Mona said...

ahh ahh my friend is really writing some sense oh hehe - so have u decided?


Gold Mine said...

i'm weak.. i'm weak..malteasers, snickers, BUENO!!!! I'm trying oh.. i'm trying oh!! as in i am going to have to fast to overcome temptation at this rate.. as in...