Buying Fairtrade chocolate makes a huge difference to the lives of cocoa farmers and their families around the world.
Life is tough for cocoa farmers. The price of cocoa beans has slumped in recent years despite high demand, disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and few young people are becoming cocoa farmers because of the poor prospects.
Fairtrade helps to make cocoa farming in places like Ivory Coast and Ghana more sustainable by guaranteeing minimum prices and providing a premium to invest in local communities, so farmers can provide a better future for themselves and their families.
And you can give them this opportunity just by enjoying your favourite Fairtrade chocolate treat.
Chocolate is one of the world’s favourite foods but growing cocoa is a hard task.
Ninety per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about 6 million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.
Cocoa trees grow in tropical environments, within 15 to 20 degrees latitude from the equator. The ideal climate for growing cocoa is hot, rainy, and tropical, with lush vegetation to provide shade for the cocoa trees. The primary growing regions are Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The largest producing country by volume is Côte d’Ivoire, which produces around 40% of global supply. Cocoa is a delicate and sensitive crop, and farmers must protect trees from wind, sun, pests, and disease. With proper care, cocoa trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the fifth year, and they can continue at this level for 10 years. But for all this hard work, cocoa farmers gain very little from a very profitable global cocoa trade.
The international price of cocoa beans is currently rising in response to high demand for cocoa products as the industry wakes up to a potential long-term shortfall in global supply; disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and the number of farmers is falling because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession – the average age of a cocoa farmer is 50! Farmers aren’t benefitting sufficiently from the rise in prices and remain in poverty as their incomes fail to keep up with rising production costs and household expenses.
Fairtrade helps to make cocoa farming in places like Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana more sustainable through payment of the Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects so farmers can better provide for themselves and their communities. In 2012-13, cocoa farmers earned more than £7.2 million in Fairtrade Premiums and almost a quarter was invested in directly supporting farming families meet their daily needs.
Around six million people depend on farming cocoa for their livelihoods around the world, with 60% of the world’s cocoa sourced from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana alone.
What cocoa farming means
Despite the world’s love for chocolate, it is a precarious way of making a living. Although there is a high demand for cocoa, the global price for cocoa has fluctuated wildly in recent decades as a result of weather events and politic upheaval in Côte d’Ivoire, exacerbated by speculators betting on cocoa futures markets. Prices hit a 32-year high in March 2011 before crashing 42% by the end of the year but recovered in 2014 amid industry fears of a shortage of cocoa beans. Such volatility in prices makes it impossible for cocoa farmers to know how much they would be paid for their cocoa beans in a given year, let alone being able to plan for the future.
Most producers have small farms, often with less than five hectares of land. They also face significant problems with the crops, including Black Pod disease which globally is killing one in 10 cocoa trees and causing a drop in yield of 20-30%. The general age of many cocoa trees is also an issue and means small-scale farmers are producing less cocoa year-on-year. The average age of a cocoa farmer is now over 50 because the younger generation cannot be attracted to cocoa farming because of the poor returns.
How is Fairtrade making things better?
Fairtrade aims to make cocoa farming more sustainable so farmers can better provide for themselves and their families. At the end of 2013, 130 small farmer organisations in 20 countries held a certificate to produce and sell Fairtrade cocoa, representing 176,600 small-scale farmers.
The Fairtrade Minimum Price for cocoa of $2,000 per tonne, with a $200 premium per tonne on top of that for farmers to invest in their businesses or local community.
In 2012-13, 46% of Fairtrade Premium income was invested by organisations in various projects and programmes to improve productivity and quality. The Premium is also invested in community programmes such as schools (Côte d’Ivoire has only around a 50% literacy rate), medical centres and clean running water.
Farmers in the 85,000-strong Fairtrade certified Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana have spent their premium on building wells for drinking water, building public toilets, and a mobile clinic to visit member’s villages. They have also invested in training in leadership and management and set up other ways for women especially to earn more money, making soap and palm oil, milling corn and breeding snails.
In addition to the Minimum Price and Premium, Fairtrade provides essential training and support to farmer organisations to help them become successful business organisations. In Côte d’Ivoire, Fairtrade undertook training workshops so farmers know how to negotiate their contracts with traders and get a better deal for their members.
Comfort Kwaasibea, a cocoa farmer from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, says: ‘Fairtrade is a good thing. Things you take for granted may be hard to come by in Ghana. Fairtrade is good to the farmer and makes us happy. We would like to sell more cocoa to Fairtrade so more farmers can taste a better life.’
If you’re interested to find out more on this subject, then please click here: Fairtrade Chocolate
At The Natural Store we are keen supporters of Fairtrade and do our best to provide a wide range of Fairtrade products. We also have a great selection of Fairtrade, organic and dairy free Easter eggs.