Dark to Milk and Artisanal Chocolates – sourced responsibly ? What should you buy?
Chocolate is produced from cacao beans that are grown primarily in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Over 70% of the world’s cocoa is harvested in Western African Countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast is then sold to a majority of chocolate companies in the world.
So if you have had a taste of rich, luscious bitter compounds it is these cacao beans are definitely from these regions. However, there is enough press around cocoa industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.
Chocolate is one of the most popular, widely consumed, and versatile products in the food production industry. Originating from the African region, from cocoa beans, the chocolate product range came into existence with European Invaders and Britishers adding sugar to it and selling it as bars in the nineteenth century.
We know that chocolate consumption is constantly on the rise, aided by the constant marketing efforts from chocolate manufacturing companies.
Europe accounts for a major share of the worldwide chocolate consumption, with Switzerland leading the mark with the world’s highest per-capita consumption. In 2017, the per-capita consumption touched nine kilos in Switzerland. Germany is a close second when it comes to their fondness for this delicacy.
The Asia Pacific region’s chocolate consumption is on a steady rise with a 3.2 percent expansion in the last 5-6 years. 2019 saw a record production of global cocoa production with 4.85 million metric tonnes being produced that year.
Chocolates are such a crucial fast-moving consumer good (FMCG/CPG) category, but are the consumers informed adequately about its origins, production, and processing techniques? Do we know if our favorite chocolate product is produced ethically? Well, the answer is indeed no for a majority of the population.
The extensive consumption trend and the ever-growing manufacturing numbers should affirm that this sweet treat does come with a bitter note.
Indeed, the chocolate industry has many sustainability and ethical issues, which should be a major red flag to its avid consumers. The customers pick their favorite chocolate bars, chocolate compounds from supermarkets without realising that how cocoa is produced. Does it involve child labor? Is their chocolate ethically manufactured from cocoa pods to chocolate bars?
Backward tracking is critical for the chocolate industry. Let us take a look at the production processes of chocolate and its major ingredient – cocoa beans.
The cocoa beans industry has been highly problematic for some decades now, and some of the most burning issues are:
The demand for cheap cocoa often pressurizes producers to resort to employing children to keep their prices competitive. On an average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income much below the poverty line. As per the latest report on cocoa farming, close to two million children in Ivory Coast and Ghana are engaged in child labor in hazardous conditions. These two regions are the major exporters of cocoa beans in Africa hence this report is gravely concerning. This tells us that more than 40% of children living in these areas are working on these farms without access to any rights. Even after numerous efforts, child labor is not being curtailed, as much one would like and is actually growing.
As per the Global Slavery Index, 1% of these children are being forced to work on these farms, and more than 10000 adults are under forced labor in cocoa farms. The traffickers abduct the young children from small villages in neighboring African countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, and these children are then taken to the farms, use dangerous machinery, a sharp machete to cut cocoa beans. These kids have no access to education and might not see their families for years together.
In Ghana, 10-year-old children spray the pods with toxins (agricultural chemicals) without wearing protective clothing. Moreover, physical violence, unhygienic sanitary conditions and un-nutrition and cheap food (such as bananas and corn paste) are provided to these children.
In fact, recently, when these freed slave children, who have never tasted chocolate in their life, were questioned – what would they like to tell people who ate chocolates made from slave labor. One of the kids said that they all feel sad and think how can people enjoy something that they suffered to make. He also added, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”
Cocoa production is rising at an alarming rate – it has risen by 62% over the last two decades. This is a serious threat to Africa’s forest cover as farmers are choosing to grow in rainforests and other patches of land. 40% of the Cocoa coming from the Ivory Coast can be traced back to being grown in protected lands.
Initial practices involved growing cocoa under tree shades, but the corporate and exporting industry has changed this to full-sun monocultures due to the demand in short-term yields. This means that the soil is getting exhausted soon, endangering the ecosystem.
LINDT & SPRÜNGLI FARMING PROGRAM is a live program that showcases their commitment to sustainability beginning with a bean, a tree and a farmer at a time, reaching over Ecuador, Madagascar, Ghana, and Papua New Guinea.
They launched the No-Deforestation Campaign and Agroforestry Action Plan for Cocoa in 2019, and reached their interim goal in 2020 becoming 100% traceable and externally verified cocoa bean supply chain.
Cocoa farmers in Africa have notoriously low income. The beans that give us our luxury chocolates hardly manage to keep their families afloat. The bean prices have less than halved since the 1980s, and the situation is quite hard to manage now.
The Ghana and Ivory Coast governments have now fixed regulations such as minimum export quantity, fixed-price purchase, and cap on production capacity to help these farmers survive. They need the support of many chocolate giants to get this implemented in reality.
Several ethical chocolate companies use the cocoa beans grown under Fair Trade certifications and Rainforest Alliance certifications. This is the first step to bring ethics into the chocolate industry and keep a check on child labor.
UTZ Certification that recently merged with the Rainforest Alliance, emphasizes stopping deforestation and strongly prohibits cocoa production in carbon storage ecosystems. The program has successfully partnered with Mars, Hershey’s, and other major players to certify their cocoa to 100%.
UTZ also works with the International Cocoa Initiative for Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation systems. This allows for community monitor to keep a check on the child labor incidents.
Fair Trade certification also works with farmers to deliver premiums for sustainable and ethical cocoa, and bring down child labor and poverty levels in the regions.
These certifications have played a major role in making the stakeholders accountable and bringing transparency to the entire process.
Food companies that deal in extensive quantities of chocolate and cocoa-pods products have to take a stand against the declining conditions in Africa and Central America as well.
Their commitment to partner with the certification bodies like UTZ, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance to source 100% certified cocoa pods and pay a premium for these products can make a big difference.
This will also ensure that there is traceability across the chocolate industry and we can trace every bar of chocolate to the farm, to be assured of the company’s ethical and sustainable promises.
With a push from the government, consumer forums, and Human rights activists, the chocolate industry is now looking at traceability seriously.
Olam, the world’s third-largest cocoa processor, has announced that they use 100% traceable cocoa-pods in their production. They have implemented traceability strategies across nine countries to trace every cocoa pod to the farms.
Hershey’s, one of the most popular chocolate company has also stepped up its traceability initiatives to bring transparency regarding farmer poverty, child labor, and sustainability in the supply chain. Hershey’s has worked with the farmer groups in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana to map close to 90% and 86% of the farms, respectively.
Chocolate Producers are sincerely working towards building a better world for the Cocoa Supply Chains, by various methods:
– Adopting farms and farmers for basic education, health and hygiene
– Free from deforestation
– Sustainable sourcing for raw and packaging materials
– Reduction of water usage per ton of production
– Compliance with food safety standards on an ongoing basis
– Legislation in Advertising and Communication from brands.
Consumers play an essential role in diminishing the food industry’s injustices. Since chocolate is a luxury and not a necessity like fruits and vegetables, customers must be encouraged to source cocoa from an approved list of ethical, sustainable environments by international certified agencies.
Additionally, food retailers must be responsible and stock these ethically produced chocolate brands in their aisles and the chocolate packaging can have an option to give back or donate to cocoa farmers that are cruelty-free.
Transparency is the first step to making an ethical choice. Do you work with Cocoa products? Are you looking for solutions to bring traceability and transparency to your supply chain?
Call us today to check our Cocoa-pods traceability solutions.
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