How Chocolate is Made | Part 4 | What Does Fairtrade Certified Chocolate Really Mean?

by Lis Armstrong March 17, 2019

How Chocolate is Made | Part 4 | What Does Fairtrade Certified Chocolate Really Mean?

Part 4 | What Does Fairtrade Certified Chocolate Really Mean?

We’ve touched on the concept of Fairtrade certification a few times throughout this series so far and this week we’re deep diving into covering what it’s all about.

Whether you’re someone who always buys Fairtrade because you know it’s a good thing, but are not sure of all the intricacies, or a person who purchases Fairtrade certified products when it’s most practical, there will be a stack of information in here. You'll become more informed about the meaning of Fairtrade certification, the importance of it in gaining fair conditions for farmers and producers as well as the limitations of Fairtrade and how we can do better.


The Fairtrade Mark

The Fairtrade Mark is a globally recognised blue and green symbol that is the registered trademark of Fairtrade International, a group who work to give a fair go to farmers, workers and their communities in some of the poorest countries in the world. Reference


What the Fairtrade Mark offers

Fairtrade guarantees minimum purchase prices for farmers whose business models are at the whim of the elements - extreme weather events and insects can destroy entire seasons leaving farmers and their works economically exposed.

By setting a minimum buying price, Fairtrade also expects a higher quality product than those which corporate interests don't necessarily demand when they drive the buying prices lower and lower resulting in cheaper products.

By investing in their local communities in projects like school building and clean water access the Fairtrade asks that farms guarantee and prove certain conditions. These include fairly paid staff, no child labour, and sanitation standards. Reference


Why finding Fairtrade and better than Fairtrade options matters

Over the past couple of decades journalists have exposed the dark side of the chocolate industry. Not only the low wages and poor conditions of farm workers across the equatorial countries who produce cacao, particularly West Africa, but also the wide use of child labour, indentured labour and even slavery. Reference

While we could write an essay detailing the horrors of child labour and slavery in the cacao industry including using children as young as five, having children use machetes and chainsaws, having children spray pods with harmful pesticides without protection, work long days, be fed nutritionally deficient food and be denied education we’d much prefer you to take five minutes to read this resource which is far more comprehensive and read the quote below.

“Drissa, a recently freed slave who had never even tasted chocolate, experienced similar circumstances. When asked what he would tell people who eat chocolate made from slave labor, he replied that they enjoyed something that he suffered to make, adding, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

Investing in Fairtrade means lifting the income levels of growers who often live below the poverty line in many cases, including the 25% of Fairtrade farmers who are women. Globally we see the trend that when we empower and lift women out of poverty we lift entire communities up.


The Problem With Fairtrade

The Fairtrade system is by no means a coverall system of perfection. There are companies and producers who are working towards ‘better than Fairtrade’, working with producers who are lifting the quality of the conditions on farm above the expectations of conventional Fairtrade.

More about issues with Fairtrade and Fairtrade’s response to the FAIR report reference


What We Can Do Better

At Treat Dreams we are constantly seeking ways that we can improve our products from an ethical point of view (as well as making them tastier, of course!). This involves a lot of research and consultation with bodies involved in the improvement of the cacao industry. Through our consultation with The Food Empowerment Project we’re looking into producers who offer better than Fairtrade conditions; pay market prices which match the high quality of produce; invest in whole communities to lift them above the poverty line; can demonstrate transparently how workers are treated and allow journalists to report on the conditions.


What You Can Do As A Consumer

Buy Fairtrade and seek out chocolatiers who are open and transparent about their cacao sources. While Fairtrade is presently an imperfect system, from a quick consumption decision, this is the best research-free option consumers currently have.

The Fairtrade Foundation recently warned of companies who use their own in house certification programs as being similar to companies 'grading their own homework'. The remarks came as Cadbury dropped use of the Fairtrade mark in favour of using an in house certification 'Cacao Life'. 

In recent years, more companies have recognised a section of the market is committed to ensuring they vote with their dollar for workers and have added a certification to their line up. The more that consumers abandon the companies who don’t demonstrate a commitment to fair working conditions, the more pressure that these larger corporations will feel to conform to lifting their farmers out of poverty as well.


This Doesn’t Mean You Need to Give Up Chocolate!

One of the BIGGEST criticisms that we face at Treat Dreams is our price point. People love what we do, but it’s just so expensive. We stand by our prices because they reflect fair pay for our workers in Australia and the people who work with the raw products overseas.

When we reflect on the work that goes into the creation of chocolate - from the farming, fermenting, processing, hand painting, moulding to packaging to get it to you - we’ve got to say that unfortunately, greed has driven other chocolate to be cheap based on the exploitation of workers.

Chocolate is a treat, and not a necessity (we know that’s going to be a point of contention for some!). So treat yourself, everyone deserves chocolate in their lives, but make it a treat that counts, as is fair to all involved in creating it.


Lis Armstrong
Lis Armstrong

Author



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