Tag Archives: cacao production

Cacao and the Environment

Background:

            Around 2,000 years ago, people in the Americas began the cultivation of a small tropical American evergreen tree, Theobroma cacao, for its fruit, the cacao bean. The bean quickly became part of everyday life for Mesoamericans, who not only consumed cacao but also considered it to have elements of divine nature.  Although it is not certain how cacao arrived in Europe, thought to be by Spanish conquest, by the late 1500s it was a treasured treat that quickly gained popularity with upper class citizens. However, “chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first… but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain,” which led to the creation of chocolate, a sweetened food prepared from roasted and ground cacao seeds (Smithsonianmag). Over the next two centuries, chocolate expanded to include a spectrum of inexpensive treats all with more sugar and additives than the next. The growth in demand and expanding market created a need for large-scale cacao tree farms to produce at unmanageable rates.  Additionally, limited regulation on cacao production has manifested issues that will become unsustainable, given the restricted natural resources found on earth. Initially brewed as a drink for social, medical, and other cultural principles, over time cacao’s role in society has developed into a complex component of societal complications such as climate control, biodiversity, deforestation, and unfair trade on a global scale.

Chocolate Production:

Today, the largest producers of cacao are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana followed by Nigeria and Cameroon. From 2000-2010 cocoa production increased from about 2,000,000 tons to around 3,000,000 tons. However, the average yield for farms has remained relatively low because many use poor soil and outdated growing methods (Wessel and Wessel).  Consequently, farmers hoping to increase their cocoa output sought out new land within the possible growing regions of cacao.  This exploration for new land has resulted in large-scale deforestation.  This issue has begun to impact the production levels of cacao and working conditions for farmers. In order to sustain production, farmers need to adapt new growing techniques which produce high-yielding harvests with reused cacao trees and farmland, new fair trade policies, and outside investment to improve infrastructure within these developing countries.

            Cacao farming can only take place approximately 15 degrees above or below the Equator.  After planting cacao trees it can take as long as three years for them produce enough to be harvested. A machete or sharp knife must be used to cut cacao pods as the trees are highly prone to disease. The beans are then removed from the pods, fermented, dried, removed from shells, and roasted. The farmers generally rely on cacao for large proportions of their household income selling their product to traders, who sell to exporters. The product is then sold to established companies which process cacao into different products to be sold on the market. This value chain has been subject to positive change within the last 20 years but there are still major flaws which will be address later in this post.

Due to the specific environmental needs for the production of cacao, lowland tropics including Latin America, West African, and Indonesia, the amount of land needed to produce cacao is very significant. “In fact, cocoa had the largest land-use footprint of all crop production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, accounting for about one quarter… for Nigeria, cocoa has the largest land-use footprint of exported crops, accounting for 55 per cent, while in Indonesia cocoa accounts for 12 per cent of the exported footprint” (resourcetrade). Furthermore, this area continues to grow in countries where investment to improve production technique and equipment has stagnated. Consequently, around seventy percent of total global cacao production is produced by smallholder farmers, where productivity is loosely regulated and labor conditions are extremely poor.  This has given large companies the ability to unfairly treat these laborers by lowering compensation, only adding to the myriad of issues with cacao production.

Another problematic aspect of chocolate production is found during the manufacturing process.  A study published in the journal Food Research International, found that the chocolate industry creates around 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.  To put in perspective, this is comparable to the annual emissions of a city the size of Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, it found that it takes as much as 1,000 liters of water to produce a single bar of chocolate (economictimes). There are other factors that could be added to these totals such as transportation costs, dairy production, and the materials used in packaging.

Deforestation and Biodiversity:

            As mentioned above, cacao is a grown by small-scale farmers in humid lowland tropics.  These areas are known to have high biodiversity which is a key element for producing high rates of healthy cacao beans. Farmers tend to use one of two growing techniques, the use of shade to compliment biodiversity benefits or full-sun exposure. With the market price volatility of cacao and the fragile nature of cacao trees, the full-sun exposure practice has become appealing to producers as it helps for a better harvest.  However, this technique results in more likelihood of disease and requires the use of herbicides to eliminate weed growth. Consequently, the different chemicals found in herbicides destroys the land.  Disease, loss of fertile soil, and other difficulties has also impacted the sustainability of such crops. Such concerns result in the continued clearing of new lands threatening biodiversity and deforestation of tropical forests (Franzen and Mulder). “Global forest loss due to cocoa production has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million hectares for the period 1988-2008, equivalent to about 1 per cent of total forest loss over this time,” which is substantial loss for producer countries (resourcetrade). By eliminating forest lands, there is a major reduction in biodiversity and other living systems living in such areas.  Wildlife habitats are eliminated and plant variety is reduced.  The loss of an ecosystem can also have lasting effects on production. As cacao farming becomes more stressful on the environment, the yields of cacao tress will start to diminish. With the increase in greenhouse gases, the higher average temperature is changing the location where cacao can be produced.  If this trend continues, the undesirable effects of production could start to impact more regions around the globe. With current practices in place, this is added pressure to the already high demand for cacao is unmaintainable.

Shade grown cacao
Sun exposure to Cacao plants

Unfair Trade:

            A major reason for this trend is the idea of unequal ecological exchange mentioned in Ndongo Samba Sylla’s work, The Fair Trade Scandal.  It is described as, “the non-observance by market prices of the scarce and sometimes non-renewable nature of environmental resources is the cornerstone of a new form of unequal exchange between North and South. Indeed, according to this approach, the environmental ‘energy’ which is embedded in developing countries’ exports is not factored into the invoicing of the prices they receive” (Sylla 2014).

Furthermore, countries with currently abundant natural resources sell to more developed countries at a price that does not compensate for their environmental deprivation and loss of resources. Cacao production regions have been victims of this crisis since the original European chocolate craze. Although cacao production techniques have many faults, it is not something farmers can control within the procedures of the current system.  The value chain of cacao trade has taken its toll on local farmers.  More specifically, international trade has hindered economic equality not taking into account economic, social, and environmental concerns of underdeveloped countries.

            For countries which produce large amounts of cacao, the private sector the chocolate industry has determined exports, market power, and price. The close relationship between supply and volatile demand has impacted the global markets inconsistency dealing with the price of cacao.  The regulation of production is important for sustainability, yet governments of producing countries have slowly lost the capability to manage international trade markets for cacao, which has deteriorated their ability to maintain domestic regulations. This unregulated market has left farmers susceptible to unjust trade.  Low export prices and privatized purchasing of cacao have therefore had negative externalities on the environment incentivizing farmers to plant and harvest at rate which natural resources cannot support (Ingram et al).

What Can Be Done:

            These economic, political, and market modifications have begun to transform as the cacao industry becomes more and more of a threat to the ecosystem. The United Nations, and groups alike, sustainable growth programs have created capacity to improve outdated farming practices and to reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production.  A few key elements discussed below are the first steps towards cacao sustainability:

  1. Improve outdated Farming practices.
    • The rehabilitation of existing farms- the economic lifetime of a cacao tree is between 30 and 40 years. Farms that qualify for rehabilitation can integrate good maintenance and innovative disease control which can help raise their harvest yield by forty percent over a 4-year time period (Wessel and Wessel). Additionally, these farms can be partially or completely replanted. Trials have shown that planting young trees among old trees can lead to more successful harvest than planting under temporary shaded fields that have been deforested (Nalley and Popp).
    • Government supported replanting arrangements—the distribution of seeds which have more resistance to disease. Amazon hybrids have been associated with forty-two percent higher yields (Wessel and Wessel).
    • Shade-grown cacao— Naturally cacao grows in the shade of rainforest cover.  Farms have the ability to transition from sun-grown cacao back to more natural ways of farming, either by planting in areas of the rainforest untouched by deforestation or by planting tropical trees and plants around their cacao plantations.
      • The use of more advanced fertilizers, pesticides, modified soil, and improved seeds would supplement these practices (Franzen and Mulder).
    • Technology and Improvements in Knowledge—Due to the small average size of cacao farms, farmers do not have access to new technologies that would increase yields, limiting the need to expand plantations.  Additionally, as the knowledge frontier in farming advances, cacao farmers remain unable to adapt these methods on their lands.  Local governments and the agricultural sector need to incentivize farmers to adopt new, more efficient farming practices through the stabilization of farmer’s incomes, easier access to credit, and more effective land tenure systems (weadapt).
  2. Reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production
    • The introduction of due diligence requirements for importers
      • Prohibit the import of illegally produced cacao
    • Inclusion of sustainability provisions in trade agreements
      • Negotiate mutual trade agreements with producer countries intended to support legal forest zones through the formation of national systems to certify authorized cacao (resourcetrade).
    • Improvements in infrastructure for production countries
      • Target rural areas to improve education, health, roads, and access to new supplies and credit.

All reforms mentioned above are all needed within the cacao Industry. The high dependence on cacao production and the risks of climate change are both convincing arguments as to a reason for exploration into improving the business and livelihoods of all those involved.  There will be roadblocks establishing truly sustainable cacao trade, economy, and environmental system but there is great motivation to improve the culture around cacao as a whole.

Sources:

blog.generalmills.com/wp-content/uploads/care-cocoa-2.jpg

foodfreedom.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/cabruca.jpg

thebftonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/deforestation.jpg

resources.mynewsdesk.com/image/upload/c_limit,dpr_2.0,f_auto,h_700,q_auto,w_670/xxuzvpvmjg1cphs3boro.jpg

Sylla, Ndongo. Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

“Cocoa Trade, Climate Change and Deforestation.” Resourcetrade.earth, resourcetrade.earth/stories/cocoa-trade-climate-change-and-deforestation#section-186.

“NCAP Ghana: Assessment of Agriculture Sector.” WeADAPT, www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base/national-adaptation-planning/ghana-agriculture.

“Chocolate Production May Be Harming Environment: Study.” The Economic Times, 2 Apr. 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/global-warming/chocolate-production-may-be-harming-environment-study/articleshow/63576249.cms?from=mdr.

Franzen, Margaret, and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder. “Ecological, Economic and Social Perspectives on Cocoa Production Worldwide.” Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 16, no. 13, 2007, pp. 3835–3849., doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9183-5.

Ingram, Verina, et al. “The Impacts of Cocoa Sustainability Initiatives in West Africa.” Sustainability, vol. 10, no. 11, 2018, p. 4249., doi:10.3390/su10114249.

Wessel, Marius, and P.m. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol. 74-75, 2015, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

Alter Eco Bean To Bar Chocolate

Chocolate is a product whose production is too often ambiguous and somewhat unethical. It is never one’s intention to consume a product made through an unethical venue unless one is an especially evil and demented person whose goal is to exploit another for their own satisfaction. Sometimes, a delicious bite of chocolate comes with an unknown consequence. Ever since the public has become more aware of the exploitative process of child labor, slavery, and unfair pay that sometimes accompanies making chocolate, some companies have risen to the forefront of responsible chocolate by ensuring their process does not take advantage of anyone and by using the bean to bar tactic. Alter Eco is one of these companies who makes responsible bean to bar chocolate. They directly source 100 percent of their products from small scale farmers. They responsibly pay their farmers through the fair trade act and even provide their farmers with assistance that goes beyond fair trade pricing. They ensure their chocolate is quality by producing it in a controlled environment so it can be delivered to one’s door guilt free.

To understand why Alter Eco is such a responsible and rare company in the chocolate business, one must understand the meaning of bean to bar and why it is so important in today’s chocolate making climate. Bean to bar is a simple concept but seems to not be as prevalent as it should be in the chocolate industry. Bean to bar refers to a model of trade in which the company making the chocolate controls every aspect in the production of the chocolate itself.(1) This means that the company does not use middlemen when buying cacao, and controls where and how the chocolate is made up until the product is finished.(2) A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate. Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates. A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate.(3)Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates.

Some of Alter Eco’s bean to bar Products

Problems plaguing the chocolate industry are extremely worrisome for the international community.  Chocolate is too often not a victimless product, and child labor that breaks international law such as close to 1.8 million children who are subject to the worst forms of child labor on the Ivory Coast alone is used to produce the cacao that is consumed in chocolate bars.(4)The amount of child laborers being used is much higher than acceptable, although this problem is much more complicated than one might think. A lot of families depend on their children to help them with bringing in the cacao beans in farming season, but this also is not considered the worst form of child labor. (5)Slavery was the foundation of cacao production from its inception from the encomienda system up to the triangular trade system, and has not fully left the cacao production industry.(6) From the Cadbury case after slavery was abolished in West Africa where the Cadbury company continually bought cacao from known slave using farms to the forms of child slavery and slavery in the Ivory coast of Africa, slavery has plagued cacao production. (7)Too often farmers are forced to sell to middlemen for below the fair trade price which is a set price that has been adopted by some chocolate companies they have agreed to pay cacao farmers. (8) According to Green America’s chocolate scorecard, Mars, Nestle, and Hershey do not purchase sustainable cacao from farmers- sustainable meaning cacao is sold at a price at which the farmers can live off of- at a rate of 100%. In fact, Mars only purchases 50% certified cacao, Hershey checks in at around 70%, and Nestle at 42%.(9)This means that three of the top chocolate producers are not paying their cacao producers prices that they can even live off of.(10) This is an atrocity that Alter Eco is trying to address in their bean to bar process.

Alter Eco directly deals with their cacao farmers unlike many bigger corporations such as the Mars company who only used 50% certified cacao in 2017, and was given a C grade in the  Chocolate scorecard which grades companies on where they get their cacao from, how much of it is certified and sustainable for farmers, and the programs that company has in place to help improve the cacao farmers situations.(17)Alter Eco received an A grade on this.(18) Alter Eco values their relationships with their small farm farmers, and they make it possible for small-scale, farmer owned cooperatives to be able to invest their profits directly into improving the quality of life and the quality of products in their communities.(19)All of Alter Eco’s products are 100% fair trade certified, which means that all of their farmers are paid fairly for their cacao and other products being bought from them.(20) This price ensures sustainable production and living conditions for the farmers and their families, and comes with a premium to help support the growth of cooperatives in the community.(21)This is much different than other larger chocolate corporations. These larger corporations have more capital and influence, yet do not wield it as well as Alter Eco does. For example, many larger companies buy cheap cacao through middlemen rather than directly going to the source like Alter Eco.(22) This is unsustainable cacao and Green America does a good job of measuring just how much sustainable cacao larger corporations purchase- not a lot. This is irresponsible on the part of these larger companies because of the potential of good they could do for the farmers- who on average are three times their yearly income in debt- if they just tried to be more conscious of social issues surrounding cacao production and chocolate production as Alter Eco is.

This is why chocolate companies should buy fair trade chocolate

Not only does Alter Eco buy directly from small farmers at fair trade prices, but they provide assistance to their farmers past just a simple economic deal. Alter Eco supports programs that train members on the farms with programs ranging from agricultural workshops all the way to entrepreneurial workshops and education workshops for the children of the farmers. This is a long way from buying cacao from farms that employ children for little to no pay or even use child slavery.(23)They also provide medical exams for the farmers and their families, help to provide reforestation in the regions in which they buy chocolate, and even provide the farmers and their families with new stoves to combat the poorly ventilated stoves that a lot of cacao farmers typically have in their homes.(24)They also provide financial loans to their farmers if required which helps the farmers -who are often struggling financially- to be able to provide for their families in seasons that do not produce as much cacao as they might have hoped for.(25)Alter Eco clearly is socially responsible and has the people, not the payout on their mind as they go about buying their cacao beans straight from the source. This is why they received the high mark of an A from one of the most reputable social justice watchdogs in the food industry in Green America.

Once Alter Eco pays a Fair Trade price for their cacao that they buy directly from farmers that they have relationships with, they leave the beans to ferment for a week in a wooden crate.(26) This allows for the cacao’s pulp to liquify and for complex chemical changes in the bean itself to take place to enhance the flavor of the cacao.  Once this process is finished, the beans are laid out under the sun until their moisture content reaches approximately seven percent. This can take up to three weeks to complete. Once the beans are dried, they are shipped to Alter Eco’s chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland.(27) When the beans arrive to Switzerland, they are roasted for hours to which brings out the flavor of the bean, and then the roasted beans are broken down and their skins are taken off. (28) These broken down pieces of cacao are known as nibs.(29)The nibs then are put under a heavy stone and ground down.(30) This process brings out cocoa butter from the beans and leaves the remaining cocoa mass. (31)The cocoa butter and cocoa mass are then put into the conching process. This process consists of the cocoa products being slowly mixed into other ingredients while slowly being heated throughout the conching process.(32) This process takes multiple hours, and the longer the cacao and other ingredients are conched, the better and smoother the chocolate will be.(33)Once the conching process is done, the chocolate is molded and packaged to be sent out for chocolatiers to enjoy.

Bean to bar chocolate is often one of the most socially responsible ways to make chocolate, especially when Alter Eco does it. There are plenty of issues in the chocolate industry that can not be fixed all at once, but Alter Eco is doing everything they can to ensure that they are making a difference in an industry packed with powerful corporations who should be more socially responsible than they are. The chocolate industry is plagued with child labor and modern day slavery that dehumanizes people. Farmers are not paid as well Alter Eco buys straight from the farmers of their cacao at a sustainable price for the farmers 100% through fair trade, so the farmers can have an income that will support their family year round, even in down years. Not only do they pay sustainable prices, but they go the extra mile to ensure that the farmer’s families are healthy, ensure their equipment is safe, loan extra money if they need, and have outreach programs to advance the lives of the farmers’ families and improve the quality of their products. They go above and beyond for their farmers because Alter Eco believes in contributing more into the world than they get out of it. From purchasing the beans from farmers who they have a relationship with up until the cacao is sent to Switzerland to be made into fine chocolate, Alter Eco is the premier responsible chocolate making bean to bar company. They provide a blueprint for what larger companies ought to be doing and contribute to the community of chocolate by making the most responsible bean to bar chocolate in the world.

Footnotes

1: Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

2:Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

3:Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

4:“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

5: Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

6: Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

7:“The ‘Chocolate Slaves’ of the Ivory Coast.” End Slavery Now, http://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/the-chocolate-slaves-of-the-ivory-coast.

8:“Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America.” Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America, fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products/Chocolate.

9:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

10: “Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

11: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

12: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

13: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

14: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

15: “Vote Every Day. Vote B Corp.” Certified B Corporation, bcorporation.net/.

16: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

17:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

18:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

19:“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

20:“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

21: “Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

22: “The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry.” Sierra Club, 21 Oct. 2017, http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/green-life/dark-side-chocolate-industry.

23:Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

24:Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

25: Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

26:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

27: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

28: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

29:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

30: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

31:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

32:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

33:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

34: “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

Works Cited

Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

“Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America.” Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America, fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products/Chocolate.

“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

“Our Story.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story. Accessed 2 May 2019.

Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

“The ‘Chocolate Slaves’ of the Ivory Coast.” End Slavery Now, http://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/the-chocolate-slaves-of-the-ivory-coast.

“The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry.” Sierra Club, 21 Oct. 2017, http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/green-life/dark-side-chocolate-industry.

“Vote Every Day. Vote B Corp.” Certified B Corporation, bcorporation.net/.

Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

Media Works Cited

Balch, Oliver. “Child Labour: the Dark Truth behind Chocolate Production.” Raconteur, Raconteur Media Ltd., 22 June 2018, http://www.raconteur.net/business-innovation/child-labour-cocoa-production.

celticross89. “Why Buy Fair Trade Chocolate?” YouTube, YouTube, 31 Oct. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NZv8FX4wPc.

Chung, Elizabeth. “5 Innovative Programs Changing the Social Sector | Classy.” Best Practices, Tips and Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits, Classy, 29 June 2018, http://www.classy.org/blog/5-innovative-programs-changing-social-sector/.

Yu, Douglas. “Alter Eco Founders on NextWorld Evergreen’s Acquisition: Chocolate Consumers Want a Story.” Confectionerynews.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 18 Dec. 2017, http://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/12/18/NextWorld-Evergreen-acquires-Alter-Eco.

Cacao Moves Across the World

What catalyzed the relocation of the world’s cacao cultivation from Central America to the West African coast?

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.09.03 PM

(Source: Nicolas Rapp via Fortune, 2016)

Although cacao and chocolate are native to Central America, 70 percent of the world’s cacao is produced in Africa. According to a 2012 cacao market report, the majority of cacao is specifically produced in West Africa, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana as the leading producers of cacao, respectively (Presilla, 2009:123). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are followed by Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, and Ecuador, respectively (Coe and Coe, 2013:196-197). The relocation of the world’s cacao cultivation from Central America to the West African coast was catalyzed by 1) the transformation of cacao cultivation into a for-profit venture by European colonial powers and 2) the Portuguese transportation of Forastero cacao to West Africa.

Cacao’s Journey Across the Equator

(Source: Google Maps, 2017)
Cacao trees thrive in the climate conditions existing near the equator, between 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south (Presilla, 2009:44). Because the cacao trees need a hot climate, rainfall, and little fluctuation in temperature, only a select number of countries are capable of producing cacao.

 

Genetic origins of cacao:

Modern scientists locate the genetic origins of the cacao tree in South America, specifically in the Amazon River basin and in modern-day Venezuela (Presilla,2009:8).

Cultural origin of cacao cultivation:

By the second millennium BC, the seeds of cacao trees native to South America were brought northward to Mesoamerica, or the modern-day area between Mexico and Honduras, including Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador (Presilla, 2009:8). From the Olmec to the Maya and the Aztecs, the chocolate mixtures were used to prepare hot and cold beverages (Presilla, 2009:8). Initially, natives had cultivated cacao trees to consume cacao as a fruit, but over time, natives discovered that the seeds could be dried, fermented, and ground to create chocolate mixtures.

Europeans encounter chocolate, and like it (A LOT):

Until Christopher Columbus arrived in Mesoamerica in the sixteenth century, no European had encountered cacao. Although Columbus returned to Spain from the New World with cacao beans, the Spanish would not taste chocolate until 1544 when the beverage was presented to the future Phillip II by a delegation of Kekchi Maya.

Upon taking up the drinking of chocolate, the Spanish made cacao cultivation a for-profit venture in its colonies. (Presilla, 2009:24). Hence, cacao was transformed from a barter item into a cash crop in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador (Presilla, 2009:28). The cultivation of cacao as a cash crop required an immense amount of labor. In the beginning, indigenous peoples worked the cacao plantations, but their populations would be decimated by disease introduced by the Europeans (Presilla, 2009:28). Cacao production could not keep up with a rising demand for chocolate, especially as chocolate-drinking spread through Europe. Within 50-60 years, the practice of drinking chocolate had spread to France, Italy, and England (Presilla, 2009:24).

The Search for New Markets for Cacao Cultivation:

To meet demand, the Spanish relocated primary cacao cultivation from Mesoamerica back to Venezuela by the seventeenth century (Presilla, 2009:28). Here still, the challenge of insufficient labor to work the cacao plantations in Venezuela and South America persisted. As a result, slave labor from Africa was imported to keep cacao cultivation profitable in the colonies.

To further increase the production of cacao, the Spanish brought cacao to its eastern colonies, including the Philippines, Java, Indonesia (Presilla, 2009:43).

Other European colonial powers desired to similarly profit from cacao cultivation in their colonies. In the New World, the Portuguese ruled over Bahia, or modern-day Brazil. The Portuguese took Lower Amazon cacao seeds from Bahia to West Africa in the nineteenth century (Presilla, 2009:43). Cacao cultivation continued to spread from Portuguese West Africa to modern-day Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast by 1905 (Presilla, 2009:43; Coe and Coe, 2013:197). The British spread cacao to modern-day Sri Lanka, and the Dutch spread cacao to Java and Sumatra. By the 20th century, Europeans brought cacao to the New Hebrides, New Guinea, and Samoa in Oceania (Coe and Coe, 2013:197).

The Rise of West African Cacao

Colonialism spread cacao seeds across the equator, but West Africa, in particular, became the largest producer of cacao because it is the primary region where Forastero cacao grows. Crucially, the Portuguese had brought Forastero cacao from Brazil to Sao Tome (Coe and Coe, 2013: 197). Although Brazil also grows Forastero cacao, cacao production declined in the 1950s following the devastation of cacao-producing regions by witches’ boom and black pod rot (Presilla, 2009:123). Modern-day chocolate corporations favor Forastero cacao because its disease-resistance makes it the more dependable, cost-effective cacao to source relative to the other two major breeds of cacao: Criollo and Trinitarto. As reflected in the 2012 cacao market, the business practices of modern-day chocolate corporations who source cacao from West Africa, where Forastero cacao thrives, reinforce the profit-driven cacao cultivation established during the colonial period: 80 percent of the world’s cacao is of the disease-resistant Forastero variety (Coe and Coe, 2013:197).

Cacao_species_-_World_distribution_map_-blank.svg

(© Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons, 2009)

Because Forastero cacao (green) is absent in non-West African regions–Criollo cacao (red) grows in Central America and Trinitario cacao (brown) grows in South and Southeast Asia, profit-driven chocolate corporations source less cacao from these regions.

 

Profit Above All: The Case of Cadbury

 In Great Britain, three firms dominated the cocoa and chocolate market: Cadbury, Fry, and Rowntree (Satre, 2005:14). By 1900, nearly half of the cocoa beans purchased by Cadbury were from the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome (Satre, 2005:19) when it was brought to Cadbury’s attention that the cacao plantations in Sao Tome were being worked by Angolans against their will (Satre, 2005:7). Under the guise of state-supported contact-labor system that could be renewed every five years, around four thousand Angolans were being captured and shipped Sao Tome and Principe to work on the cacao plantation (Satre, 2005:2-7). Although Portugal formally abolished slavery in its colonies in 1879 (Satre, 2005:2), a new slave labor arose on the cacao plantations in the twentieth century.

Nearly a decade after first learning of the inhumane labor conditions on the islands passed before Cadbury would officially boycott cacao from Sao Tome and Principe in 1909 (Higgs, 2012:148). Notably, his decision was preceded by his acquisition of fourteen acres in the Gold Coast, or modern-day Ghana, to be used for a Cadbury factory (Higgs, 2012:148). Despite having sufficient evidence for the inhuman labor conditions years before, Cadbury waited to boycott cacao from Sao Tome until he secured an alternate source of cacao for his company.

Although American chocolate corporations immediately filled the void left by the British boycott of Sao Tomean cacao, cacao production in Sao Tome eventually fell. The island’s cacao-producing regions were affected by swollen shoot disease in 1918 (Higgs, 2012:160). Since, Sao Tome and Principe have been unable to compete with the Ivory Coast and Ghana, chocolate corporations’ primary suppliers of cacao (Higgs, 2012:164). Ultimately, the profit venture begun by European colonial and the Portuguese transportation of disease-resistant Forastero cacao to West Africa primed the West African coast’s economies to flourish through cacao cultivation.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. pp. 133-165.

Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-32, 73-99.