Harriet Lamb: The bitter truth about a sweet taste the world adores

Share
Related Topics

Cocoa grows in hot, rainy climates mainly 20 degrees north and south of the equator. When the trees' pods are opened they contain up to 40 beans. The beans are fermented under leaves before being dried in the sun. Nearly 50 million people in some of the world's poorest countries depend on cocoa for their livelihood.

Some 70 per cent of cocoa comes from West Africa. Weighed, then sold to traders, most cocoa is exported, either as raw beans or as cocoa butter or liquor. This is where the value of cocoa is multiplied as it is then blended with milk and sugar to make chocolate.

But the real story of cocoa is the destruction of income experienced by cocoa farmers over the last 40 years. Adjusting for inflation, cocoa sold on global markets has fallen by more than half its 1970 value. Imagine living on a wage that has fallen below that level. At the same time, the cost of seeds, fertilisers, fuel and food have all shot up. Oh, and the farmers will only get a fraction of the price cocoa fetches on global markets.

No wonder most cocoa farmers do not have the money to invest to maximise their income. A technological breakthrough may help cocoa farmers. But they need an economic and social fix too. Growers in West Africa – the world's biggest cocoa-producing region – received 16 per cent of the value of a chocolate bar 20 years ago. Today the figure is around 3.5 per cent. By contrast, the manufacturers' share has risen from 56 to 70 per cent.

When I was visiting cocoa farmers in Ghana last month, I met villagers for whom schools, medical centres and even drinking water are all a long walk away. In Cote d'Ivoire, the world's biggest producer at 41 per cent of total volume, the level of illiteracy is shocking.

Yes, cocoa prices have risen globally as hedge funds on Wall Street and London bet on the latest rumour. Maybe chocolate will go up a few pence. But the key is to ensure the benefits flow back to farmers and their communities. If more big companies address this challenge, that will be a real breakthrough.

Harriet Lamb is the executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links