Fair

It is irresistible, it knows how to seduce millions of men, women and children around the world. It adapts its tastes depending on its fans and it has passed the years without a single failure of fashion. Above all, it knows exactly how to bring pleasure to all. Jealously kept in a cupboard for a guilty pleasure or shared with friends, it is the best lover that has ever existed.

It isn’t a bird. It isn’t a plane. It isn’t even Superman, and yet it is the one thing that has superpowers which no one can deny! Well, let call it ‘Chocolate’!Cadbury chocolate

The love affair between man and the cocoa bean started over 3000 years ago with the Mayan and the Aztec who couldn’t resist its charms. Associated with fertility and believed to fight fatigue, the earliest use of chocolate was as an alcoholic beverage and then consumed in a bitter, spicy drink called xocolātl, often seasoned with vanilla, chilli pepper, and achiote.

In 1687, Hans Sloane, after whom Sloane Square in named, brought back in his luggage from Jamaica a recipe that millions of English children and adults will always thank him for: drinking chocolate. This comfort drink that everybody enjoys for breakfast or back from the slopes on a winter day was originally made of water and cocoa. Finding it much too strong for his taste, Hans Sloane mixed cocoa with milk instead. Admiring it for its medicinal attributes, apothecaries started stocking it before the Cadbury Brothers started selling Sloane’s drinking chocolate in tins in the IX century… and the rest, as they say, is history.cocoa beans

Their quest began 101 years ago when the Cadbury brothers moved their cocoa production to Ghana where the local famers where better treated. And the latest chapter of the story has just come to light: From Autumn 2009 Cadbury Dairy Milk will be Fairtrade certified when they will triple the sales of cocoa under Fairtrade terms for cocoa farmers in Ghana to 15,000 tons a year, opening up new opportunities for thousands of farmers.

Today, 20 percent of the world‘s cocoa is produced in Ghana, making the country the second-biggest producer of cocoa beans after the Ivory Coast. But who was the mysterious person who brought this divine ingredient to Ghana? Three main players claim to have introduced the cocoa beans: The Swiss Missionaries, the British and Tetteh Quarshie, who is credited to be the official exporter.Cocoa beans trade

Born in 1842 in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Tetteh Quarshie took a trip to Fernando Po in his 20’s and returned six years later with cocoa beans. After a few fruitless attempts in Accra, he established a successful cocoa nursery in the Eastern region of Ghana and the cocoa industry was born.

The government further helped the economic development of Ghana and encouraged the growth of the cocoa industry by distributing cocoa beans to local farmers. Ghana now produces approximately 5,000 tons of Fairtrade cocoa, with an estimated 700,000 cocoa farmers producing Ghana’s second most valuable commodity after gold.

Why is it so important to get the certified Fairtrade?
One of the main objectives of Fairtrade is to increase farmer’s incomes by reducing the number of intermediaries between the farmers and the end consumer, earning farmers a larger share of the export price. Two other characteristics also add to this: a minimum price and an additional premium.

In the chocolate market, the minimum price per ton of cocoa is set by the Standards Unit at FLO at $1,600. The prices are set based on consultation with stakeholders and research into producers’ costs of sustainable production.

The additional premium is fixed at $150 per ton and is paid into a project development fund which invests in the building of schools, clinics, community centres, funding scholarships or paying medical bills. The decision of how the fund’s assets are spent falls upon a group of farmers, allowing them to take control of their business and community without having to rely on government and public estate’s decisions.

According to the Fairtrade association, this certification not only guarantees fair and stable prices, it also ensures an extra income to all those working in the industry. Additional benefits are the insurance of environmental protection, a stronger position in world markets and a closer link between consumers and producers.

Fairtrade

There is some controversy about the Fairtrade certification. A quick search on the web shows that a lot of people disagree with it, claiming that Fairtrade is a nice gimmick to sell products at higher prices and that farmers don’t benefit from it as much as they should. But like in any situation, there are always examples to show that some good ideas can create negative impact if they are used unwisely.

The movie ‘We feed the world’ shows how the globalization and search for money and power has had quite an absurd effect on the food industry. Erwin Wagenhofer, the director, travelled all around the world and brought back incredible stories like in Latin America where 350,000 hectares of agricultural land are dedicated to the cultivation of soybeans to feed Austria’s livestock while one quarter of the local population starves. In ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’, directed by Hubert Sauper, we are witness to the effects of the introduction of the Nile perch to Lake Victoria and how it has affected the ecosystem and economy of the region.

So yes, nobody is perfect and there will always be situations to prove that the perfect recipe doesn’t exist. It’s the exception which confirms the rule. Mixing an egg with some sugar is easy but to find the right balance to create the ultimate cake that everybody will crave for requires time and improvement.

So when the moment comes to snack on a chocolate bar, the most important thing is to enjoy this delicate moment of pleasure and the comforting feeling that the melted chocolate brings to our palates. And a few seconds later, it is always good to tell ourselves that this guilty pleasure is not a selfish one and it is shared by millions of Ghanaians doing their best to make the best cocoa beans.

cocoa beans nowadays

Thanks to the Cadbury team for the pictures.

25 thoughts on “Fair

  1. What a thoughtful post! So many times we put food into our mouths without taking the time to think about where that food came from, who harvested the crops, and how “fair” the distribution of the money is. Thank you for shedding some light on this issue.

  2. Nice post, Mathilde. One of my favorite newer Fairtrade chocolates is SweetRiot – mostly from Latin America. Not sure whether it’s available in the UK, but I’ve met the CEO, and they make chocolate-covered cocoa nibs.

  3. Thanks for sharing this wonderfully researched and detailed piece on chocolate, and the history of cocoa in Ghana. Thanks also for sharing your thinking on has the Fair Trade movement and now Cadbury is supporting cocoa farmers and workers.

    While these are certainly good new stories, it is also important for chocolate lovers to recognize that as they “enjoy this delicate moment of pleasure and the comforting feeling that the melted chocolate brings to our palates”, there is STILL significant forced and child labor that forms the underbelly of this indulgence? http://bit.ly/YZQPM

  4. Hello Mathilde!

    Great post, I particularly like your evocation of that ‘delicate moment of pleasure’.

    I think fair chocolate is often better tasting chocolate too. Fairtrade companies tend to have the welfare of cocoa farmers at heart, so they will use as much cocoa and cocoa butter in their recipes as possible, to ensure as much money as possible goes to the growers. It’s the cocoa butter that gives good chocolate that amazing melt in the mouth sensation, something that the cheaper cocoa butter substitutes used by most mainstream companies can’t quite reproduce.

    It’s always good to hear the story of Tetteh Quarshie bringing cocoa to Ghana, an inspiring indigenous African hero who counterbalances some of those colonial narratives where it’s British people who are shaping Ghanaian destiny.

    There’s another important step in the history of cocoa in Ghana you may be interested to know.

    It was another visionary Ghanaian, a cocoa farmer called Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, who helped bring Fairtrade cocoa to Ghana. Supported by a UK NGO called Twin Trading, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese and a small group of cocoa farmers formed a Fairtrade co-operative called Kuapa Kokoo in the early 1990s.

    Since then, Kuapa Kokoo has grown into a large thriving democratic organisation of 52,000 cocoa farmers, they now produce one percent of the world’s cocoa on Fairtrade terms, though the Fairtrade market is still not large enough to buy all the cocoa they sell.

    In 1998, the cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo went on to found Divine Chocolate, a UK company whose existence has shaken up the chocolate industry. Kuapa Kokoo own a 45 per cent stake in the company, so farmers sit on the board and share in the profits.

    More importantly, the company’s persistent commercial and educational work over the last ten years has gradually expanded the market for Fairtrade chocolate in the UK and internationally, paving the way for the big chocolate companies to get on board.

  5. Mathilde you forgot to mention that Divine chocolate owned by Kuapa Kooko have been sourcing and selling ft chocolate for 10 years

  6. Thank you for a well researched and informative post. We all benefit by choosing responsible food sources. I can enjoy chocolate with a little less guilt and more pleasure if I buy wisely!

  7. Hi Mathilde,

    I hav just seen your early July comment on my Taste of London blog piece! I didnt even know it was being featured on there!!! Sorry i didnt write back to you sooner! Their link, made me see your comment just 2 days ago! Thanks again for your comment!

    I hope we can keep in touch! I have just started writing for Foodepedia also! http://www.foodepedia.co.uk and enter my name in their search engine!

    Best wishes

    Sabrina

  8. Pingback: Fair

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