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Fair Chocolate Trade: Buy Good and Do Good

By Eddie Long, Genesis Hub

In my last article, I shared my personal journey in discovering fair trade. This month I want to talk about chocolate. I run a coffee shop, so you probably expected me to start with coffee, but chocolate is something that only the most deranged humans don’t enjoy. (JK, I’ve got a few friends that somehow don’t like it). The chocolate industry is also a place that we can most clearly see the egregious exploitation of “the least of these.” If you’re unfamiliar with the industry, prepare to be shocked and angered.

The U.S. chocolate candy industry turns out $20+ billion annually, but unfortunately, the bulk of that money lines very few pockets. 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers in West Africa who care for their cocoa trees for about five years before they reach peak production. According to a recent article by Bloomberg, growers are currently paid an average of $1,800 per ton, which leaves their families in poverty, making an average of $0.78 per day. By contrast, the family that owns Mars is worth $78,000,000,000. The governments in West Africa recently demanded higher prices from large companies like Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, but these companies have been refusing to pay the premium price. Economists like to say “supply and demand” is the reason they can’t pay more. The problem with that logic is that the CEO of Hershey’s netted over $10.5 million last year, and demand for chocolate is expected to grow (as it consistently has in the past) by billions in the next five years. To put perspective on that one CEO’s salary, you could take half of their salary and pay 9,000 farmers DOUBLE what they usually make!

All of this knowledge can make our favorite guilty pleasure even MORE guilty. However, the good news is that we, the consumer, really do have the power to shift this dark industry! We can choose to buy our chocolate from ethical, Fair Trade companies that care for the places that they source from by paying farmers living wages! One example is Tony’s Chocolonely, a leading company in raising awareness and bringing solutions to the industry. By paying growers more per pound and investing Fair Trade premiums into communities, Tony’s price per ton is closer to $2800. Not only that, but Tony’s team invests time with the farmers and becomes a voice of the issue to people everywhere. Or, take Raaka Chocolate. They transparently trade directly with farmers paying an average of $4,770 per ton!

Many companies like these don’t put profit over people and have found great success in the industry. It takes a little research on our behalf, but it really does turn the guilty pleasure of chocolate into something you can truly feel good about!


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