Choice: World Vision says only 5 per cent of the world’s cocoa is certified as ethically grown. One of the three schools of the Kuapa Kokoo organization in Ghana. Owing to Fairtrade Premium money, the school can provide extra classes in English, science and mathematics. Photo: Kennet Havgaard
In the colourful confectionery aisle of a supermarket, science teacher Jessie Tulett is on the hunt for Easter eggs. They’re not hard to find. The challenge is to find some free of child labour and palm oil.
Tulett is among a growing number of ethical consumers looking beyond the shiny packaging and seeking to buy chocolate made without the use of child, forced or trafficked labour, and palm oil, an ingredient linked with deforestation, animal cruelty and climate change.
“I want to make choices that will help the community making the cocoa, that they are well-compensated,” the 26-year-old from Mooney Mooney said.
Only 5 per cent of the world’s cocoa is certified as ethically grown, according to aid group World Vision.
Further, ethical products are expected to account for just a tiny fraction of the record $282.3 million forecast to be spent on seasonal chocolates, largely Easter-related, this year in Australia, said research analyst Daniel Grimsey from Euromonitor International.
But companies are responding to the growing demand for change.
“Ethically sourced chocolate is a major trend with several major brands having jumped on board,” he said. “Organic chocolate is not a large category, worth about $25 million in Australia [in 2014], although it is demonstrating solid growth at an average of 12 per cent over the last five years.”
To fire up ethical consumerism, Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand has flown Mary Appiah, a 62-year-old cocoa farmer from Ghana, around the country for the past two weeks to share with school students about how fairer trading changed her life.
For more than a decade, Appiah received a paltry sum for back-breaking work growing cocoa on her small plot of land in the Enchi district. After she joined the Fairtrade-certified Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in 2008, she enjoyed fairer pay to better provide for herself and her seven children.
The 87,000-strong cooperative owns nearly half of Divine chocolates, a brand sold nationally at IGA supermarkets, The Co-op bookshops and boutique grocers. Appiah’s cocoa could be in Tulett’s freshly purchased chocolates.
Now skilled up in sustainable farming techniques, Appiah said her cocoa has never been of higher quality. “It’s good,” she said with a laugh.
This week, she helped deliver a petition with 12,000 signatures to supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths which urged them to double their range of Fairtrade chocolates next year.
“If they have more Fairtrade on their shelves, people will buy more, and there’s a premium paid to us, which is better for our lives and all the community,” Appiah said.
There are 6 million farmers working on small cocoa farms, according to Fairtrade. The benefits, despite rising market prices, are few and the work is tough. The average age of a cocoa farmer is 50, and their sons and daughters are reluctant to follow their footsteps.
This is one of the reasons why David Guest, Professor of Plant Pathology at Sydney University, believes the world will be hit by a cocoa shortage crisis by 2020, which will see chocolate prices double.
Chocolate prices spiked 25 per cent last year. The world’s biggest chocolate makers Barry Callebaut and Mars Inc both warned of a shortage, pointing to a streak of production deficits.
Guest said there were labour shortages in cocoa-growing areas. “It could be there’s a drift of young people to the cities, that people are not healthy all the time.”
He also said there was not much scope for increased cocoa production, consumption rates were rising as people in China and India acquired Western tastes, and the cocoa plant was vulnerable to many pests and diseases.
“Fairtrade is one of the answers. These certification schemes work in particular villages but we’re a long way away from having schemes that would benefit the vast majority of growers,” he said.
The schemes can also help eliminate child labour. There are an estimated 1.8 million children working illegally on cocoa farms, carrying heavy loads, using machetes to clear land, and inhaling harmful pesticides, according to World Vision.
Palm oil is another major concern for consumers. This week consumer advocacy group Choice launched a petition, pressuring the government to follow the European Union’s lead and make the labelling of palm oil mandatory.
“The current labelling system allows palm oil to be hidden behind a generic ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’ label,” said Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey.
Choice pushed Cadbury Caramello milk chocolate eggs and Maltesers Teasers mini eggs into the spotlight, saying both labels said “vegetable fat” instead of “palm oil”.
Cadbury spokesman Julian Polachek argued it used RSPO certified palm oil in small amounts to maintain taste, texture and freshness in soft-centre filling and inclusions.
He added Cadbury’s Dairy Milk blocks were Fairtrade, but refused to provide a time frame for when the rest of the range will be certified. Instead, he pointed to its Cocoa Life program, a $US400 million, 10-year investment to create thriving cocoa communities.
“With Cocoa Life we’ve already reached 13,000 farmers and 210 communities in Ghana, 10,000 farmers across 280 communities in Cote d’Ivoire and 2,000 farmer in 20 communities in Indonesia,” he said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.