so, this post is not like my usual posts – by that I mean that I’ve not made something to show you….today I attended the Academy of Chocolate bi-annual conference held in The Royal Automobile Club, London.
I was really looking forward to this as there were some amazing speakers, and it would be a good opportunity to meet some new people & learn a little more about the industry that I’m trying to learn.
The agenda ranged from:
- sustainability – cocoa cultivation & genetics
- child labour & child trafficking
- bean-to-bar, marketing & ethical cocoa
- skills, training & Communication
- chocolate in America, the state of the market & other fairy tales
I had already seen a documentary about child trafficking, so I thought that I was pretty clued up but today really made me think.
Take the title “what price chocolate”; at what point do we, the consumer, think about the price that the cocoa farmer gets paid, the child labour trafficked into Cote d’Ivoire on the promise of £20 a month to send to their families that they don’t get, the cost to the chocolate producers (by that I mean Nestle, Cadbury, Valrhona, Barry-Callebaut etc..), the cost of replanting new trees. Is it when we buy our Mars bar, or when we go into a luxury chocolatier and balk at the prices, or do we not ask at all.
Do we ever consider that this valuable commodity may not be around in future generations. Do we care? Is there enough awareness that cocoa farmers are converting their farms to other crops that are more profitable and provide a yield in a shorter time than the 3-5 yrs required for new trees planted to produce good enough cocoa pods, or that farmers are not replanting their trees once the lifetime of the trees have been reached because they are just not making money, or that the farmers children are not willing to take on the family non-money making farms and are pulled by the bright lights of the nearest big city to earn more money.
Do we care that a lot of the farmers can’t afford labour so they are using family members, not such a big deal – you think ” our farmers do the same thing – isn’t that what family is for?” but what if that farmer with his 3 kids is only earning $2 without taking into consideration his operating costs? is it really wonder that they turn their back on Cocoa.
Would we spend £10 on a bar of chocolate if it meant that the farmer was getting a fair wage, which would encourage him to invest in replanting trees….for his children to stay and take on the family farm ensuring the trees continue to produce?
Is there an assumption that when we buy a bar of chocolate the question of ethics/fairtrade etc has already been taken care of. Does that absolve us of raising the questions ourselves? Do you ever wonder why a mars bar is the price it is, yet when you walk into a chocolatiers a single chocolate may be 75p, or is it so far removed that you just don’t think about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still reach for the cheap chocolate because I’m a sugar addict – don’t get me started on added sugar to food! but I am glad that a recent court ruling now means that large chocolate producers/buyers can be held accountable for child labour and trafficking.
With a lot of foods we are now looking for provenance, why are we not doing this fully with chocolate. Cocoa is difficult to grow successfully, taking at least 5 yrs invested commitment from the farmer and this can only be grown 20 degrees to the north and south of the equator. With increased demand in this commodity, everything needs to be done to encourage the growth of the cocoa tree – but not at it’s current cost to the farmers.