Latest news in the world of cocoa

Hot off the press from Daily Mail Reporter yesterday: There will be a shortage of 1 million tons of cocoa within 8 years.

With demand growing in places like China, and due to more awareness of the incredible health benefits, there is serious concern that mass market producers will start using “substitutes” to fill up their chocolate bars. This is hardly a viable solution! If an area the size of the Ivory Coast is needed to cultivate more cacao, then what I see is an opportunity to expand across several countries across the Equator that are not yet growing cacao but have the climate to do so. In fact, in the name of promoting shade-grown cacao, perhaps this is just the crop to promote in areas where forests are being cut down to grow a monoculture crop that is decimating the soil. Currently, cocoa is grown in only a handful of countries. If demand grows, my hope is that new farms are cultivated in a sustainable way, maintaining the natural environment.

Also hot off the press….the proliferation of the Fair Trade label is deeming it less credible. Apparently in the UK, fair trade chocolates are so much the norm that the label doesn’t serve to differentiate fair trade bars from others. I’m not sure whether to be happy that fair trade is becoming the norm, or worried that it is causing customers to assume certification doesn’t matter anymore.

And one last update (not as new) – Fair Trade USA will indeed break ties with FairTrade International at the end of this year as they want to expand the certification to larger companies. Traditionally, Fair Trade certification was set up to help small farmer cooperatives. There is concern by FairTrade International that allowing in large companies (where lets face it, auditing and tracing can be much more difficult) will only serve to water down standards. I think this is a legitimate concern and I am more than wary that FT USA is willing to place its seal on items that have just 10% certified fair trade ingredients! The minimum requirement is 20%. I do see opportunity in increasing Fair Trade certified sales through allowing distribution through large corporations in the U.S. (more market reach is a good thing), however, the standards should not be lowered, or Fair Trade in the U.S. will soon become green wash. The dispute is – did FT USA sell out in search of higher profit margins, or, are they simply trying to scale up Fair Trade’s impact by allowing larger farms and companies to participate?

What are your thoughts on this?

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2 Comments

  1. skincarebio said,

    December 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Nice article. Well, if the whole world economy could be fair trade, based on etchical business relationships, that’s something I think noone would disagree with. You certainly have a point though, how much fair could Nestle ever be? Knowing big multinationals’ methods, who has the integrity and power to verify they ‘re paying the local farmer what they should. On the other hand, commneting on your reference to UK’s fair trade chocolates norm, I ‘d like to see fair trade being a norm in s/m products. And as long as I know the cereals or my chocolate bar is made by a not bigger than a medium sized company I ‘d be happy with that. I’ ll never buy nestle or starbacks, even if they had all the fair trade, organic, god’s approval, whatever, stamps on it. 🙂

    • December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Thanks for your comment. I would encourage you to look into Starbucks sustainability initiatives. While I tend to opt for smaller, independent coffee shops over them, I do applaud their conservation efforts and their transparency. The fact is the large companies are not going anywhere, and if they change their practices even by 1%, that could translate into a much larger % to improve some social or environmental issue. I agree that consumers are skeptical about larger companies intentions, and, I believe a start in the right direction, even if its just for their image, is still a start, that may become a more pronounced sustainability effort. As long as consumers stay vigilant in demanding more transparency, to keep the Nestles’ of the world in check and encourage better business practices.


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