A piece of chocolate melting on the tongue can feels like a slice of sheer heaven, but that treat may be tainted with a bitter truth. It may have come from cocoa grown with slave labor.
Terrible? Yes. And terribly true. By the time the beans are sold to large distributors and manufacturers like Nestle or Hershey’s, both slave and slave-free beans are so mixed it’s hard to tell if that Hershey bar is tainted.
43% of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa’s Ivory coast on small-scale cocoa farms, which accounts for 1.3 million tons. Unstable prices coupled with middlemen who rig their scales promote unfair labor, and even worse, the use of illegal forced child and slave labor. A 2001 Knight-Ridder report exposed the use of forced child labor in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa farms. Many of the 9 to 15 year old boys reported being sold to traffickers to work at cocoa farms under arduous conditions like working 12 hour days with little food, forced to carry 50lb bags, or were beaten with whips and cacao tree branches. They lost the chance to go to school and the machetes they used to hack down the pods sometimes scarred their legs. For more, read here.
The chocolate industry issued a protocol,hoping to assure consumers they were acting on ending forced and trafficked child labor in their cocoa supply, but progress has been slow. Thankfully some large manufacteres/importers like Barry Callebaut USA are taking stepts to help by supporting fair farming practices.
But true action depends on us. One simple way to cease unfair and slave labor practices to buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate and coffee. We vote with our dollars.
FTC products aren’t necessarily more expensive. For example, FTC Trader Joe’s chocolate bars are $1.99 a can of whole-bean FTC coffee is $6.99. They also sell FTC hot cocoa mix, green tea and red tea.
What is Fair Trade, and how does it help farmers?
Fair Trade empowers farmers and their communities by offering them a fair price for their crop and helling them to develop their business skills. Workers on Fair trade farms enjoy safe working conditions, living wages, and child/forced slave labor is prohibited. They are garunteed a minimum price for their products, and enjoy the benefit of trading directly from importers, without the need of middlemen. Since they are paid a fair price, Fair Trade farmers can invest the premiums they gain into business and community development projects like schools, health clinics, training programs, and buy machines to improve the quality of their product. As a plus, all FTC products cannot be grown from genetically modifed organisms, (GMOs) so Fair Trade encourages farmers to use environmentally sustainable farming methods. In short, Fair Trade offers farmers economic development and decent standard of living, and we get to enjoy a quality product.
What Fair Trade Certified products are sold in the US?
TransFair USA is the only indepedent certifier of Fair Trade products in the US. It began with coffee in 1999, but now Fair Trade certified cocoa/chocolate, teas, fruits, vegetables, fresh flowers, cane sugar, and even wine are avaliable.
Where can I buy FTC products?
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, your local grocer or wholesale stores. Look for the Fair Trade Certified logo. Ask for it! Search here for a store near you.
If you cannot find FTC cane sugar, consider buying USA-made beet sugar, like Crystal Sugar. Made from sugarbeets, there is no discernable taste difference and only a slight performance difference compared to cane sugar.
What brands have FTC products?
Chocolate: Divine Chocolates, Dagoba, Equal Exchange, Guittard, Trader Joe’s, Valrohna, and Whole Foods private label, 365. Here’s a more detailed list.
Coffee: Caribou, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts espresso beverages, Costco, Sam’s Club, Dominick’s, Target, and Walmart.
Remember, we vote with our dollars. Shop Fair Trade and help kill cruel and sickening labor. Learn more at TransFair USA.
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