As a BBC Panorama program "Chocolate-The Bitter Truth", view here, highlighted last night, there is an issue of child labour within the cocoa industry. This is not news to Chocolate Trading Co. or indeed anyone I imagine connected to the chocolate industry but it may have been quite a revelation to most watching the program. Although I'm sure most people realise this industry is no different from any other with a supply chain and somebody somewhere is paying a price for the price we pay at the till.
As with many products the issue of provenance has and always will be an issue. The morality of a products creation or processing, including child labour, environmental pollution and countless other global issues are all at some point brought to the surface for us all to consider. So what can we do?
Well, for a start we can start taking responsibility for our own actions. It's easy to point the finger but are we all at some degree not responsible in some way to one of these global issues? The prices we demand, the packaging we use...and so on.
Which chocolate do we buy then?
Chocolate with provenance from a reputable company and at a fair price. You may have to do some work to find such assurances as not everything can be covered within an ingredients label or the product description. Ask questions about a chocolates cocoa origins, but please remember we are not all multinationals or manufacturers and are relying on the same assurances. Also take note that a sticker on a product doesn't perhaps guarantee the assurances you thought it would as even the Fairtrade organisation was faced with some disturbing findings that chocolate carrying their Fairly traded assurance was indeed created with cocoa from farms employing child labour.
A question over the Fair Trade guarantee
Since the BBC Panorama program aired we have received many emails from customers seeking some assurance about the chocolate makers within our collection. Such requests for statements of assurances have been forwarded. However, also highlighted in the program was the difficulty in anyone 100% guaranteeing the provenance of cocoa, particularly from Africa and what was described as the busiest port in the world. We saw traceability was completely lost when independent farmers and cooperatives bought and sold cocoa without any structure of traceability. We are talking about Africa and the Ivory Coast here in particular as defined single origin and single estate cocoa, used by the chocolate makers in our collection such as Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, Amedei, Pralus and Domori, are not part of this whole topic as Estates and origins are all clearly detailed and each carrying their own good reputations as independent cocoa farms.
Our selection process
It is from our own research and constant communication with the most reputable of chocolate makers from around the world, that we selected to be included within our collection, that each follow a spirit of sustainable fair trade. This is mostly due to the main factors of economics and market to create a superior quality product.
We have over the years sought and published as much information about the cocoa variety, origin, ingredients and each of the chocolate makers within our collection. We were the first retailer to create a leaflet focusing on single origin chocolate bars with each detailing its full provenance and make-up. We hope to continue to provide as much information as we are able, and are given, so you can make informed choices on the chocolate you buy rather than relying on perhaps the marketing and packaging of a product.
Why aren't chocolate maker's such as Michel Cluizel, Valrhona and Amedei (regarded as producing the finest chocolate in the world) incorporating Fairtrade?
We have been asked this question many times. These chocolate makers, including other fine chocolate makers within our collection focus primarily on the quality of the cocoa they use and so producing the highest quality chocolate. They are not in the mass market candy industry and so supplying cheap chocolate to the masses is not their goal. These makers more than anyone have preserved and in many cases rescued cocoa varieties from extinction, reversed the increasing decline of chocolate and stood for what they believe truly matters, quality and sustainability. To make high quality chocolate you need high quality cocoa and high quality cocoa is produced by reputable cocoa farmers and using predominantly fine flavour cocoa. To guarantee quality, provenance and sustainability a more direct relationship must be built and one that is not solely based on economics. Will they succumb to market pressure however at some point to be able to guarantee to their customers their commitment? Is this even possible within the world cocoa market at this time, as was highlighted within the program? At this time we will have to trust their reputations and assurances.
Ultimately it all comes back to us all. Do we want the cheapest product or the least damaging product, to ourselves and to others?