I hear that Cadbury have decided to use Fair Trade cocoa in their dairy milk chocolate bars and hot chocolate powder in the UK. This is very good news.
I’ve been a supporter of fair trade products for many years, even before I married into a family of Ghanaian cocoa farmers, and well before it was easy to buy fair trade products. It just made sense to me that people should get a fair price for their product and their labour. So it’s been good to see the slow growth of awareness, the appearance of the fair trade logo on supermarket shelves, and to reach a point where chocolate giant Cadbury takes such a progressive step is very, very hopeful.
Although I’ve been interested in the issue for a long time, I actually wasn’t fully aware of the extent of corruption and exploitation that have characterised the production of and trade in cocoa. I thought it was bad enough that my son AM had a two year old cousin with scurvy, and that I’d seen children in his grandmother’s cocoa-farming village carefully rescue a broken egg from the ground so that they could eat it. But thanks to a newish book on the subject, Bitter Chocolate, I am now much better informed, and the importance of a fair go for producers is clearer to me than ever.
Bitter chocolate, by Canadian journalist Carol Off, records both the violent and corrupt history of the chocolate industry, and exposes more recent horror stories in relation to what most of us think of as an innocent treat (apart from the calories!) A more apt title might be Blood Chocolate. I’m not the only one to imagine an action movie of this name – Richard Stubbs in his ABC radio program was actually able to suggest it to the author. The book, which I couldn’t put down, has all the right ingredients: child slavery in Cote D’Ivoire, the disappearance of a journalist investigating the disappearance of cocoa profits into the pockets of corrupt politicians, war over access to cocoa producing territory, purchase of weapons with cocoa profits, greedy multinationals turning a blind eye to the violence and injustice, and deliberately keeping prices low. If only it were fiction. But it is the reality behind our chocolate bars.
So it’s in this context that Cadbury’s announcement is particularly welcome. all me naive if you will, but I think the goal of the fair trade movement should be obsolesence, because all consumer goods and raw materials will be traded fairly in some better, future world. But because I don’t really trust multinationals, I think there will also be a role for watch dog organisations – to keep the bastards honest. But with this vision in mind, Cadbury’s commitment is an enormously significant step. And I hope, just the first step of many for this company, which was started more than 100 years ago by a Quaker family. Well done. And pay attention, you other cocoa giants – this is the way of the future.