Fair chocolate, the solution to (almost) any problem

We are true chocolate lovers! About 700 000 tons of chocolate are produced in our country every year. That's why it doesn’t come as a surprise that the world’s largest chocolate factory is located in Belgium and that the Chocolate Salon takes place annually in Brussels, with over 100 participants. We get a good feeling when eating chocolate, just because we like chocolate and we can enjoy it. It is clear that we enjoy chocolate to the fullest, but not everyone can enjoy it with us.

Chocolate contains cacao. Cocoa comes from the cocoa tree. These trees like a hot and humid climate, and they grow best in the shade of other trees. You can find them around the equator, mainly in West Africa. In 2019, nearly three-quarters of all the cocoa we consumed in Belgium came from Ghana and Ivory Coast. Cocoa is mainly cultivated on small-scale family plantations. There is a growing demand for cocoa, yet cocoa farmers are very vulnerable and they face a number of difficult challenges.

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Cocoa is not an easy crop to grow. The cocoa tree is a delicate and fragile plant that requires daily care. It has to be protected from diseases, parasites, wind and the sun. Tending to the plant and harvesting it requires hard physical work, which is often rewarded with a meagre salary. The income of cacao farmers is not enough to cover their daily expenses (also known as liveable income), let alone to invest in sustainable cultivation. Many cocoa villages suffer from extreme poverty. Furthermore, there isn’t always access to a water pump and sanitary fittings. People in extreme poverty switch over to survival strategies, such as child labour. Slavery and deforestation are standard practice in the cacao industry. It should come as no surprise that young people are fleeing this situation and, as a result, the number of cacao farmers is sharply decreasing.

Although there is still a long way to go to demand respect in the supply chain, we have taken the first steps in the right direction here in Belgium with the “Beyond chocolate” project. This project aims to make Belgian chocolate sustainable and to ensure a liveable income for local cacao producers by 2030. During this process, challenges such as deforestation and child labour would also be addressed. Fairtrade’s ambition is to ensure a liveable income for all cacao producers. As a part of Beyond chocolate, Fairtrade has decided to increase their minimum price and premium for cocoa, double their efforts to provide information, and develop pilot projects together with committed partners.

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Oxfam-Worldshops even went one step further. With their new “Bite to Fight (for a fair income)” packaging, Oxfam Fair Trade highlights their renewed policy for their cocoa partners in Ivory Coast. The chocolate distinguishes itself from the known barsby putting its story and the extra effort that went into the bars on the packaging. Through additional premiums Oxfam Fair Trade wants to prove that paying cocoa farmers a liveable wage doesn’t mean that chocolate becomes unaffordable.

You too can do your part by choosing Fairtrade and organic chocolate. It doesn’t stop there, however: actively ask for low-packaging, fair chocolate and occasionally opt for plant-based options in the fair trade range. That’s how you can reduce your ecological footprint.

You can find out what to look out for and where you can find these chocolate varieties in our Easter article on chocolate.

Foto's: Sarah Van Looy

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