My previous post was a review on Endangered Species chocolate. That got me thinking more about what fair trade chocolate really means and why it’s so important. What I found was disturbing. I felt so incredibly ignorant to the issues surrounding the chocolate trade that I wanted to share my findings here. First of all, there is a lot of controversy about whether “fair trade” certified chocolate is in fact completely fair trade. Turns out 70% of all cocoa is sourced from west Africa. This is also where cocoa farming conditions are the worst. Reports of child labor, beatings, slavery and human trafficking are common in this region. Since the farmers are paid only $2 to $4 a day, they are having to do whatever it takes to survive. Some experts argue that requirements for being Fair Trade certified are not enough to make a huge difference amoung the farmers. Is it becoming more of a marketing strategy than a real concern? I would definitely say that buying a Fair Trade certified chocolate product is better than one that is not. However, there is now a new option altogether. It’s called direct trade. There are companies showing up around the country who work directly with the cocoa farmers. They truely have a vested interest in the farmers and their workers. This farm-bar approach is said to produce better chocolate because the farmers are motivated to produce better beans. While these type of chocolate bars are more expensive, I like to think of it as a donation to someone else’s chance at a better life. Two direct trade vegan chocolate companies are Manifest Chocolates and Taza Chocolate. These are great companies with inspiring stories. I would encourage everyone to check out their websites.
If you choose to buy fair trade certified or farm to bar direct chocolate, the important thing is to be educated about the company and where it sources its ingredients. The cost has to come from somewhere. I am definitely willing to pay a few extra dollars on my end than spend someone else’s life to feed my sweet tooth.
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