The True Cost of Chocolate

What is the real cost of cocoa cultivation and production?  A human one.  The difficulty in making a living from cocoa farming has led to an increase in child labour, and even slave labour, especially on the Ivory Coast.  On top of this, the work is very physical, and farmers are only paid a fraction of the value of their work, and their product.  They often have no access to outside information that would be useful to them in determining their worth.  Because they are so poor, they have no access to conventional lines of credit.  One bout of bad weather can eradicate an entire crop, and there is no government or other insurance.  However, the cost of their hard labour is definitely passed on to us, the consumers.  There is little competition in the cocoa industry, and the labour in intensive.  Now you know why chocolate is so expensive!

Cacao Farmers in Ghana

What, you ask, is Canada doing to end this injustice?
FLO is an international system, of which Canada is a member, that sets standards defining what Fair Trade products are, and provides a way of determining whether those standards have been met. The intent is to both bring clarity about Fair Trade and instill confidence in the public that it is not about empty promises.

Click here to read more about FLO’s mandate: (in general) (about chocolate)

Thanks to Fairtrade International (FLO):
  • The minimum guaranteed price is paid directly to the producer co-op. The minimum floor price is currently US$2000/metric ton (MT) for conventional cocoa beans and US$2300/MT for organic cocoa beans. When the world market price exceeds Fair Trade, the market price plus the premium is paid to producers.
  • A Fairtrade premium of US$200/MT is included in the purchase price. It is used by cooperatives for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment, and loans to members.
  • Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.
  • Pre-harvest lines of credit, of up to 60% of the purchase price, are given to  cooperatives if requested.
  • No forced labour of any kind, including child labour, is permitted.

If you want to learn more about the physical and financial perils of cacao farming and the free trade movement, then I suggest watching a documentary that was recently aired on TVO (TV Ontario) called Semisweet: Life in Chocolate.  It was a real eye-opener.

The above link takes you to TVO’s website, which contains more information on this documentary, as well as a link to the  “Choco-locate” app.  This app helps you track down chocolate by your preferences.  You can review and rate the chocolate you love to eat.  It also reveals more about the stories of the people and places chronicled in the documentary:   fair trade chocolatiers in Northern Canada, the massive Hershey operation in Pennsylvania, farmers and child labourers on plantations in West Africa and a chocolatier in Paris, France.

“Semisweet: Life in Chocolate takes us from the hyper commercial world of Hershey to the frozen lakes of Northern Canada, from the busy streets of Paris to the heat of the forests of West Africa as we follow the unique journeys of people whose lives have been transformed by chocolate.”


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