Why Fair Trade Chocolate Matters!

Love chocolate? Find out why you should love fair trade chocolate even more

You're probably not eating fair trade chocolate, at least not all of the time. For one thing, it's not readily available in your local supermarket; for another, it's awfully expensive. But do you know that you could be supporting slave labor every time you sip a mug of cocoa?

Sweet Chocolate... Slavery?

In the year 2002, the United States government knew of almost 110,000 children on the Ivory Coast working cocoa plantations. And if you don't like the idea of children making your food, you won't like this: no one pays those kids. The government found horrible and inhumane conditions on these plantations, enough to spark a worldwide revolt.

In some places, farmers produce cocoa on their own and sell it to major chocolate production companies. However, these farmers receive notoriously low prices for their wares. That's the origin of fair trade chocolate: companies that wanted to pay fair market prices to local cocoa farmers!

Cocoa Alternatives

Don't worry: you don't have to give up chocolate just because the slave trade appalls you! There are many other ways to get that delicious chocolate flavor with a clean conscience. And by far the most common alternative? Why, fair trade chocolate, of course!

So what exactly is fair trade chocolate? Well, fair trade organizations move into a traditionally exploited area (such as the Ivory Coast) and promise fair market value for products, along with socially responsible working conditions. Fair trade items account for less than 0.5% of all items sold annually in the United States. But don't think that means fair trade is a failure: that half a percent of sales funded 1.5 million farmers in developing nations. In addition, fair trade companies often channel a portion of their proceeds into social and economic development of local areas, resulting in even further benefits.

Of course, fair trade has its critics. Some people see it as too much of a social program and not enough of a marketing development. For the time being, though, fair trade products (including fair trade chocolate) provide a reasonable way to halt the use of child labor.

How You Can Help

If you like the idea of supporting fair trade chocolate, there are a number of ways you can lend a hand!

-look for fair trade products at local stores and ask your markets to carry them
-support charities such as the World Cocoa Foundation who help to eliminate slave labor
-Look for the mark of the Fair Trade Federation and support companies who bear it

Now you can feel doubly good about eating chocolate: when you support fair trade chocolate, you don't just get a good taste -- you could actually help change a life!