Although we do our best to eat local, some things are just grown too far from home. One of these foods is cocoa, most of which comes from the Ivory Coast region of West Africa, as well as Central America. Sadly, the reality of the cocoa industry is not as sweet as the final product we enjoy here at home. The good news is, even though this is occurring thousands of miles away, Americans wield a tremendous amount of buying power.
Cheated and underpaid by middlemen who use rigged scales and misrepresent world prices, small family farmers may turn to child and slave labor. Workers are subjected to long days, strenuous labor (it takes 400 picked and sliced cocoa pods to produce one pound of chocolate), and exposure to pesticides and insecticides.
By purchasing Fair Trade Certified cocoa products, we can help foster direct trade links between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers who give farmers a fair price. Fair Trade farms are inspected to ensure that standards are being met, including the prohibition of slave labor and the use of integrated crop management. This more stable market allows many farmers to practice sustainable methods of cocoa growing as well as invest in post-harvesting techniques that lend high-quality flavor.
Fair Trade chocolate bars are becoming a more common sight in candy aisles, but what about making baked goods and desserts at home? Here are a few producers of Fair Trade Certified powdered cocoa, chocolate chips, and baking bars:
• Cocoa Camino: cocoa powder and chocolate chips
• Dagoba: baking bars, drops, nibs, and powder
• Divine Chocolate: cocoa powder
• Equal Exchange: baking cocoa
• Frontier Natural Products Co-op: cocoa powder
• Guittard: cocoa powder and wafers
• Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates: chocolate chips, bars, and powder
Have you tried any of these or others?
(Cocoa pod image: TransFair USA, Harvesting image: Fairtrade Foundation)