Tag Archives: plantation

An Analysis on the Significant Increase of Sugar Consumption in England

Before the discovery of sugar, many Western societies had meals that were centered around common carbohydrates. Sidney Mintz, one of the founders of the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins University, stated, “The most striking [aspect of the] English diet at that time was its complete ordinariness and meagerness…. Most Europeans produced their own food locally” (74). The majority of families in Britain did not eat rare foods, or even meat, dairy, or fruit. The most common foods in British households stemmed from grains and starches. Members of the nobility and wealthy families were able to obtain and dine with more extravagant foods, since they could afford to purchase them from distant locations. Accordingly, when sugar was discovered and brought to European civilization in the mid-1600s, only this wealthy class of people had access to it. There was a sense of power and high social status that coincided with the ability to consume such a product. After over a hundred years, there was a large shift in the British appetite for sugar. British consumption of sugar accelerated at almost an exponential level from the mid-1800s to the end of the 20th century, which was caused by newly discovered uses of sugar, increased access to sugar by the working and lower classes, and the plantation system that was implemented in the Caribbean, allowing for the mass production of sugar.

Sugar consumption increased at almost an exponential rate after the mid-1800s in England. The two major dips in sugar consumption were due to World War I and World War II.

Source: Johnson, Richard J. et al, Sugar Intake per Capita in the United Kingdom

When sugar reached the families of Western society, several uses were discovered that made sugar a vertaile product. Mintz stated, “In 1000 AD, few Europeans knew of the existence of sucrose, or cane sugar. But soon after they learned about it; by 1650, in England the nobility and the wealthy had become inveterate sugar eaters, and sugar figured in their medicine, literary imagery, and displays of rank” (5). Members of the nobility deemed sugar to be much more than a food with a new, distinct taste. Sugar had medicinal value and was used for a variety of ailments. This medical association was derived from Greek medical practices that were embraced by many British physicians. Discussing the history of sugar, The Guardian published, “[Sugar’s]  consumption rose rapidly among European populations from the 17th century. Like tea, coffee, tobacco, chocolate and rum, it had physiological, consoling effects, particularly in children.” The consumers of sugar had many positive associations with the product and believed that it played a pivotal role in the healing process. This association of sugar and healing continued for centuries. In addition to the medicinal value placed on sugar, there were several other important uses that the British realized. Mintz stated, “Sucrose can be described initially in terms of five principal uses or ‘functions’: as medicine, spice-condiment, decorative material, sweetener, and preservative” (78). Even though in today’s era sugar as a sweetener seems to be a given, in the 1800s, sugar was even more useful as a spice. Sugar was presented to Europeans along with the other spices that were seen as rare at that time. The modern association of sugar being a main determinant of taste was a construct developed many years after sugar had been ingrained in European cultural and dietary habits. The various uses of sugar that the British explored made it extremely popular. Vincent Mahler stated, “With the turn of the nineteenth century the sugar boom seemed likely to continue indefinitely: colonial sugar was England’s single most important import in every year from 1703 until 1814” (473). The British were infatuated with the idea of sugar, and they began to associate it with all realms of life: religion, nutrition, politics, gender, and sexuality.

The British elite and wealthy were the first individuals in England to be introduced to sugar. They believed that the consumption of sugar was a representation of their high social status. Sugar was served with several foods and beverages, including tea.

Source: Tenre, Henry, Five O’Clock Tea

The largest growth in sugar consumption occurred when the working and lower classes gained access it. Access to sugar was expanded due to the mass production of sugar, which made each serving cheaper, the production of lower quality, less refined sugar, and the increase in wages of the working class. David Richardson stated, “Contemporary writers referred also to the wider use of meat, tea, and sugar in northern working-class diets. Such dietary changes were made possible by relative improvements in real wages after 1750 in industrializing counties” (752). These areas focused on industrialization gave the working class the ability to pay for sugar and utilize many of the aspects of sugar enjoyed by the wealthy. One of those aspects of sugar that was used heavily by the working class once the use of sugar became more widespread was its function as a preservative. Mintz stated, “Sweetened preserves, which could be left standing indefinitely without spoiling and without refrigeration, which were cheap and appealing to children, and which tasted better than more costly butter with store-purchased bread, outstripped or replaced porridge” (130). It saved time for wives in working and lower class families that had jobs outside of the home. This use of sugar as a preservative made the product even more appealing to families who already were drawn to the taste itself. Tea, which was also considered a luxury in Europe when it was first introduced, had trickled down to the realm of the working class and had been used in conjunction with sugar. Richardson stated, “Explanations for the growth of British sugar consumption and its divergence from continental levels have largely focused upon changes in taste and diet, particularly the growth of tea and coffee drinking in Britain” (748). This phenomenon led to the increased use of sugar as well.

The growing domestic demand of sugar in Britain was met because of the foothold the British established in the slave trade and the plantation system in the Caribbean. Slaves worked in unbearable conditions and were essential to mass production.

Source: Clark, William, Slaves Cutting the Sugar Cane

With the growing interest and consumption of sugar, production needed to be expanded in order to meet the demand. The British used the slave trade as an avenue to meet their economic goals, and they were viewed as being at the forefront of capitalizing off of the institution of slavery. Mintz stated, “England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system. The most important product of that system was sugar” (38). The British recognized the opportunity to not only meet the increasing demand of the country, but also profit off of the use of free labor. They established plantations throughout the Caribbean, beginning in Barbados and expanding into Jamaica, transporting millions and millions of slaves to produce sugar in mass quantities. Richardson stated, “Published estimates have suggested that British traders may have carried between 2.5 and 3.7 million slaves from African between 1701 and 1807” (741). The production of the large amounts of sugar that was dependent upon slave labor allowed the British to meet the growing demand for sugar domestically, while also allowing them to export the product past the country’s borders. Mahler stated, “Britain’s possessions in the Caribbean had entered the nineteenth century as perhaps her most valuable foreign economic interest” (474). The British dominance in the Caribbean boosted England’s economy and expanded its reach as an economic and political world power.

Sugar served as a very powerful and influential tool in Britain, especially after the beginning of the 19th century. Even though the wealthy families of England were the first to be introduced to sugar, it quickly garnered traction throughout the country and was popularized as a food that many individuals in Western society wanted access to. With its versatile functionality as a medicine, spice, sweetener, preservative, and decorative material and its associations with religion, politics, and wealth, sugar became one of England’s most popular commodities. As demand increased and the working and lower classes had access to the product, Britain established a strong foothold in the slave trade and the plantation system in order to meet their domestic demands and profit off of the increased international consumption of sugar.

Works Cited:

“Britain Is Built on Sugar: Our National Sweet Tooth Defines Us.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Oct. 2007.

Clark, William. Slaves Cutting the Sugar Cane. Antigua, 1823.

Johnson, Richard J, et al. “Potential Role of Sugar (Fructose) in the Epidemic of Hypertension, Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, and Cardiovascular Disease.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 86, no. 4, 1 Oct. 2007, pp. 899–906.

Mahler, Vincent A. “Britain, the European Community, and the Developing Commonwealth: Dependence, Interdependence, and the Political Economy of Sugar.” International Organization, vol. 35, no. 3, 1981, pp. 467–492.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. Viking, 1985.

Richardson, David. “The Slave Trade, Sugar, and British Economic Growth, 1748-1776.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 17, no. 4, 1987, pp. 739–769.

Tenre, Henry. Five O’Clock Tea. Paris, 1906.


Slavery in Chocolate: William Cadbury’s Role

In both Catherine Higgs’ Chocolate Islands and Lowell J. Satre’s Chocolate on Trial, the authors examine William Cadbury’s efforts to end slavery in Sao Tome, Principe, and Angola, countries from where the Cadbury company sourced 45% of their cacao in 1900 (Satre 19). Although Cadbury should certainly be commended for his role in fighting this inhumane institution, it seems that his desire to not destabilize an important source of cacao for the Cadbury chocolate brand caused him to take actions that prevented labor conditions from improving at a faster rate. Had Cadbury truly been the humanitarian he is often portrayed to be, he would have made dramatic changes to the way the Cadbury company conducted business even if it resulted in significant loss of profits, as opposed to taking actions that improved his public image but did little to induce real change.

William Cadbury was aware of the use of slave labor in San Tome cacao plantations by 1901, if not before, as he was notified about slave labor while abroad in Trinidad (Satre 18). Soon after, Cadbury received an offer for a plantation in Sao Tome, which listed black laborers as assets, confirming the use of slave labor (Satre 18). Upon hearing these reports of slave labor, Cadbury wrote that he “feel[s] that there is a vast difference between the cultivation of cacao and gold or diamond mining, and [he] should be sorry needlessly to injure a cultivation that as far as [he] can judge provides labour of the very best kind” (Satre 19). It seems clear that from the beginning Cadbury was reluctant to cut ties with a location that grew almost half of his company’s cacao.

Information regarding the labor abuses in West Africa continued to pour in during the early 1900s. In November of 1900 an English newspaper, The Antislavery Reporter, published the experiences of a commercial traveler who described “slaves being marched from the interior of Angola” and the “many dead and decomposing bodies by the roadside” (Satre 21). These experiences were emphasized repeatedly by travelers soon after, yet Cadbury continued to respond that “[he does] not feel [him]self called upon to take any initial step in the matter” (Satre 22). For a Quaker individual who was involved in multiple antislavery organizations and prided himself on being a humanitarian, his lack of action is quite surprising and seems to discredit his compassionate image. The photograph below of a 1902 Cadbury advertisement demonstrates a chilling irony, as the chocolate is advertised as “pure,” despite its production relying on an “impure” form of coerced labor.

Cadbury finally decided to take limited action in 1903. He traveled to Portugal to interview Sao Tome plantation owners regarding the systematic labor abuses and was successful in helping to establish new labor regulations regarding minimum wage and laws against labor recruitment (Satre 23). Cadbury was even willing to take further action by sending a representative to investigate labor conditions. After dismissing Matthew Sober as a candidate for being “too outspoken in his criticism of Portuguese practices” (Satre 25), Cadbury stalled for quite a while before finally landing on Joseph Burtt. Although Cadbury should be commended for sponsoring his own investigation of cacao plantation labor conditions, it is notable that it took Cadbury four years from when he first heard about the use of slavery. 

Furthermore, there was ample information already available regarding the practice of slavery, which seems to suggest that Cadbury may have launched his own investigation primarily as a stalling tactic. Henry Woodd Nevinson finished his African travels just as Burtt was beginning his two-year journey and, upon returning to England, detailed his experiences in articles complete with pictures in Harper’s Monthly Magazine (Satre 7, 8). Nevinson reports how slave traders would travel deep into the interior to recruit slaves, who would then be marched to the coast, many going to Sao Tome and Principe. The picture below shows the displaced and disoriented slaves after arriving on Sao Tome. Slaves would then be asked to sign a five-year work contract and made to do so regardless of their reply (Nevinson, 30, 38, 196). There can be no debate that the Portuguese antislavery laws were ignored and that the labor provided by Africans on the cacao plantations was largely unfree.

Not only were the workers unfree, but they were also horribly mistreated. Nevinson describes how, as he walked the inland slave routes, “it would take an army of sextons to bury all the poor bones which consecrate the path” (Satre 1), a chilling idea that is substantiated by the ominous photograph below of a skull. Once the slaves arrived on the plantation, treatment was no better. Corporal punishment was common, and Nevinson details one encounter with a badly bloodied slave whose punishment if he attempted to escape again would be “death by flogging in front of the owner’s other slaves” (Satre 6). On Sao Tome, the death rate for slaves was estimated by one plantation doctor to be twelve to fourteen percent, while a superintendent suggested the child mortality rate was 25 percent per year (Satre 10). These estimates are presumably an underestimate if anything, given they came from plantation employees.

Even if earlier suggestions of slavery had not been enough to motivate Cadbury to stop sourcing his cacao from these areas, there is no excuse for Cadbury to have ignored Nevinson’s graphic written and photographic evidence. Burtt’s journey had been rendered largely redundant at this point and it seems clear that Cadbury was waiting on Burtt’s findings merely as a way to push off cutting ties with slave grown cacao and inevitably hurting Cadbury’s profitability.

Once Burtt had finished his report and returned to England, Cadbury continued to do his best to minimize the impact of the report and stall any real changes from occurring. Despite admitting that labor in Portugal’s colonies was “in almost every sense as bad as the old-time slavery” (Satre 76), Cadbury and the other chocolate companies pressured antislavery publications to avoid writing about labor abuses on the West African cacao plantations and did not want to publish Burtt’s report, which Higgs notes had already been heavily edited to weaken the strength of the accusations and avoid using the word “slavery” (136). Cadbury instead wanted the Portuguese government to take actions to fix the issue of slavery and Satre notes that “Cadbury proved willing…to berate those who questioned his strategy” (79). These actions are not indicative of an individual who is wholeheartedly fighting for change.

Burtt’s report was finally released to the Portuguese planters in 1907, which resulted in new labor standards for the Portuguese colonies. Yet Cadbury was “willing to give the Portuguese a generous amount of time” (Satre 98). Satre suggests that Cadbury was “naïve at best” to think that meaningful change would come from the new labor regulations (Satre 99). This analysis still seems too flattering to Cadbury, who appears, throughout the entire period from 1901 to 1908, to have been largely willing to ignore the true severity of slave labor and merely take actions to appease the public. A quote by the head of another large chocolate maker, Fry, seems to sum up Cadbury’s attitude, as Fry said, “the quality of Sao Tome’s cocoa made it ‘very difficult to decline to buy it’” (Higgs 133) For an individual who prided himself on his humanitarian Quaker values and who is regarded highly today for these same values, these actions are reprehensible and serve to tarnish his reputation. 

Even evidence from today suggests a surprising disconnect between William Cadbury and the efforts to eliminate slave labor in West Africa. The charitable trust in Cadbury’s name says nothing about working to address the ongoing issue of slave labor and child labor in West African cacao production (“William Cadbury Charitable Trust”). Although the other philanthropic goals are noble, it seems surprising that the trust would not support an issue about which Cadbury was purported to be quite passionate and which is still such an important issue in the chocolate industry today.

Works Cited

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012. 

Nevinson, Henry Woodd. A Modern Slavery. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1906. 

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio University Press, 2005. 

“William Adlington Cadbury Charitable Trust.” Registered Charity, 2012, wa-cadbury.org.uk/home/. 

Media Cited (in order of appearance)

Cadbury advertisement: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/File:Im19020913S-Cad2.jpg

Slaves in Sao Tome and Skull: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015020221506;view=1up;seq=160

Mahalo: The End of Sugar in Hawaii

sugar_plantation_matt_thayer__maui

Maui sugar cane fields

As I sit in Beat Brasserie, watching Maui sugar crystals disappear into my coffee, I realize that I’m consuming one of the last batches of Hawaiian sugar. The Hawaii Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) closed the last sugar plantation in Hawaii this past December and laid off nearly 700 workers(Solomon). This marks the end of the sugar industry in Hawaii, a place that Mark Twain once described as “the king of the sugar world”(Downes). Sugar wasn’t just a profitable enterprise, it became a way of life because it shaped Hawaii’s culture through land use, employment and ethnic diversity.

The sugar industry grew in Hawaii in the 1860’s because the Civil War cut off sugar supplies from the south(Flynn 302). Then, in 1876, plantations owners struck a deal with the Kingdom of Hawaii that removed tariffs on sugar exported to the U.S(Solomon). Sugar production increased exponentially and American planters couldn’t get enough. Sugar brought in immense wealth to Hawaii and powered politics on the islands. Plantation owners capitalized on this power and helped to overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893(Downes).

Plantation owners rushed to fill the demand for sugar with cheap labor. American consumption of sugar nearly doubled between 1880 and 1890 from 38 pounds of sucrose per person per year to over 70 pounds per person per year(Mintz 188). Plantation owners needed laborers and with the promise of a decent wage, workers from China, Japan, Brazil, and the Philippines immigrated in waves. These contract laborers were mostly young males who agreed to work for 5 years. At its peak in the 1930’s, 50,000 people were employed by sugar in Hawaii(Downes). Some returned home after their contracts expired, but many settled down and married into the community(“Hawaii’s First”). These immigrants shaped the unique ethnic makeup of Hawaii. This history is a source of pride for many residents of Hawaii and they carry on the legacy of their ancestors today. Teri Freitas Gorman, President of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce stated:

“My ethnic heritage is what I call plantation pedigree. I’m almost in the order that they came: I’m Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese. And I’m Native Hawaiian as well”(Solomon).

This heritage is also important because as Dan Boylan from the University of Hawaii notes, “somehow Hawaii has realized a degree of racial harmony unknown in most parts of the world”(Kent xii). For example, interracial marriage was “unremarkable” long before Loving v. Virginia(Downes).

mt-sugar-retirees-12-13-16

Due to this heritage, jobs on sugar plantations run generations deep. Mark Lopes, the harvest manager at HC&S, remembers, “I used to ride on the tractor with [my father] and that was pretty cool. And then my son, when he was young, I used to bring him out on the weekends. My granddaughter is not going to be able to experience that”(Solomon). These concerns are echoed by many in the community. The Hawaiian Homes Commissioner, Pua Canto, grew up in the plantation camps in Pu‘unēnē(Solomon). She fondly remembers her father tinkering with the intricate tools in the mill. Jobs were highly specialized and many worry about where the 675 laid off workers will go(Wood 2). For these workers and those like Pua, Gorman, and Lopes, who consider sugar as an integral part of their identity and the only skill set they have, the new era is daunting.

The mills created skills training programs that produced welders, electricians, mechanics, and more. These workers took their skills all over the islands. A former millright stated that, “Other than Pearl Harbor, the state has no other training facility for these skills”(Wood). This is a great loss to the island because the mills invested in the residents.

The impact of the end of the industry is also felt by businesses that supplied the mill with equipment, fertilizer, and irrigation supplies. Some companies had partnerships with HC&S for over 100 years(Solomon). Maui’s small farmers have also been affected because they can no longer benefit from the bulk orders of supplies from HC&S.

The absence of sugarcane also changes the landscape and experience of the islands. Dorothy Pyle used to be able to see the thousands of acres of sugar cane from her house. Now, she states:

“It’s changing us forever because I will never see 35,000 acres of agriculture there again. And so the whole feel of the island, that flying in over these fields and driving through them. It’s never going to be again”(Solomon).

Not only will the fields be missed, but the smell of molasses and the crackling from burning cane have been lost as well.

Sugar6web
Dorothy Pyle looks out over the last cane harvest.

As the sugar industry becomes a part of the past, it is important to remember its sweeping impact on the Hawaiian economy, people and culture. For me, it is a reminder to think about the immense history bundled in a small packet of Maui sugar or whatever food I happen to be eating.

Works Cited:

Downes, Lawrence. “The Sun Finally Sets on Sugar Cane in Hawaii.” The New York Times [New York City], 16 Jan. 2017, Editorial Observer sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/opinion/the-sun-finally-sets-on-sugar-cane-in-hawaii.html. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.

“Hawaii’s First Chinese.” Hawaii History, http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=544. Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Kent, Noel J. Hawaii, Islands under the Influence. Honolulu, U of Hawaii P, 1993.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1986.

Siler, Julia Flynn. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure. Grove/Atlantic, 2012.

Solomon, Molly. “The Final Days Of Hawaiian Sugar.” NPR: The Salt, 17 Dec. 2016. NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/17/505861855/the-final-days-of-hawaiian-sugar. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

—. “Maui Workers, Residents Say Goodbye To Sugar.” Hawaii Public Radio [Honolulu], 18 Nov. 2016. Hawaii Public Radio, hpr2.org/post/maui-workers-residents-say-goodbye-sugar. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.

—. “Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii.” Marketplace [Los Angeles, CA], 9 Dec. 2016, Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Wood, Paul. “The End of Maui Sugarcane.” Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2017, mauimagazine.net/maui-sugarcane/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

Media Cited:

Thayer, Matt. “Maui.” 16 Nov. 2105, hpr2.org/post/future-maui-sugar-plantation-unclear.

—. Former HC&S employees Teddy Espeleta (right) and Frank Nakoa greet each other before Monday’s ceremony marking the last haul of sugar cane from the fields. 13 Dec. 2106, http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2016/12/end-of-an-era/.

Solomon, Molly. “Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii.” Marketplace [Los Angeles, CA], 9 Dec. 2016, Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Fair Trade Pioneer and Protector: Equal Exchange Chocolates

Equal Exchange is one of the leading distributors of fairly traded and organic products, particularly coffee, cocoa products and tea. The company has been involved in fair trade from its conception in 1986 and has fought to ensure fair treatment, fair prices, safe working conditions and direct trade relationships for small-scale farmers and farming co-operatives as well as providing education to its consumers on available products. In the last ten years, Equal Exchange has found itself in opposition to one of the most well-known names of fair trade (mostly because it has the words in its name)- Fair Trade USA. Equal Exchange has retaliated against Fair Trade USA’s CEO Paul Rice’s campaign, “Fair Trade for All,” which plans to expand the certification of fair trade to large plantation owners. Equal Exchange, through its countless protest resources, emphasizes that this inclusion of big business and plantations will only foster negative competition for the farmers and farming co-ops that fair trade organizations try so hard to protect.

The Backstory

In 1986, Jonathan Rosenthal, Michael Rozyne and Rink Dickinson co-founded Equal Exchange as a challenge to the existing Fair Trade business models and as an attempt at creating a “closer connection” between the consumers and the farmers (“History of Equal Exchange”). They were previously involved in a food co-op in New England and decided to bring their knowledge of the relationship between producers and consumers into a realm that would benefit international, small-scale producers.  Once a week, for three years, the three met and discussed the best strategies to ensure more control for farmers, to create higher quality standards for producers, and foster a community and a company “that would be controlled by the people who did the actual work,” (“History of Equal Exchange”).

header_founders_0-1
The co-founders of Equal Exchange

Originally, the company sold Nicaraguan coffee, called “Café Nica,” which they imported through a loophole in the Reagan administration’s embargo on products from Nicaragua as a show of opposition towards the Sandinista government. This embargo was placed on Nicaraguan products in the late 1980s to further cut off any and all financial assistance to the Nicaraguan government as punishment for the Sandistas allegedly providing material support to the Salvadorian guerrillas (Leogrande). The embargo did not inhibit the founders from importing Nicaraguan coffee but during these years the three located and began trade relationships with other farming co-ops in South America and Africa. It was not until later years that the company would begin to sell fairly sourced tea and cacao products in addition to coffee.

The Business Model

Equal Exchange is a fully democratic worker co-operative that emphasizes equality among workers. The company depends on four main principles for its employees: “the right to vote (one vote per employee, not per share); the right to serve as leader (i.e. board director); the right to information; and the right to speak your mind,” (“Worker-Owner”). Each worker involved in the employee has an equal stake in the company so there is no hierarchy of salary or superiority among positions. The company is involved with over forty co-operatives in North America (mainly Mexico), Southern America (mainly Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay), Central America, Africa and Asia.

This video is taken from the Equal Exchange website narrating the worker-owned business model (if the video resets to the beginning of the Equal Exchange playlist, it should be video 16: Co-ops: Can We Do it Ourselves?):

The Introduction of Cocoa

In 2001, Equal Exchange surveyed their consumers and figured out that cocoa was a highly desired product. In 2002, they added hot cocoa mix to their product list, quickly followed by baking cocoa powder in 2003 and three varieties of chocolate bars in 2004. Their 2002 hot cocoa mix was the first U.S. cocoa product to display the Fair Trade Certified seal and to use Fair Trade Certified sugar (“History of Equal Exchange,”).

“…We put together a hot cocoa mix that met our standards of quality and social responsibility — a partnership between cocoa, sugar, and dairy cooperatives. Our hot cocoa mix has helped us reach out to a different group of farmers and has provided options for people who want to be certain that their cocoa is not being harvested by slave or child labor. It has allowed children in the U.S. to participate in promoting Fair Trade along with their parents,” (“History of Equal Exchange,”).

Cocoa Production and Products Today 

After the initial introduction of Equal Exchange’s three chocolate bars in 2004 they have expanded their products to twelve varieties of chocolate bars (Extreme Dark, Very Dark, Panama Extra Dark, Milk, Dark Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, Milk Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Orange and Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper), milk and dark “chocolate minis,” milk and dark chocolate chips, hot cocoa mix, dark hot chocolate mix, spicy hot cocoa mix and one bulk sized option of cocoa powder (“Chocolate Bars,” “Chocolate Chips,” “Chocolate Minis,” “Cocoa,”). Each of their products is certified organic and Kosher.

organic-chocolate-ecuador-dark
“This bar is made with chocolate liquor from Fortaleza del Valle co-operative in Ecuador and cocoa butter from co-ops in the Dominican Republic. The sugar and vanilla are also fairly traded and organic. The sugar comes from co-operatives in Paraguay and the vanilla from a co-operative in Madagascar,” (“Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate (65% Cacao)”).

 

 

The chocolate bars are made with cacao sourced from “small farmers in Central and South America,” and are accompanied with a story explaining the origin of the cacao, sugar, and any other ingredients in each bar (“Chocolate Bars,”). The website states that “All of our Fair Trade and organic chocolates and cocoas are made with pure ingredients from small-scale farmers in Peru, Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic,” (“Chocolate and Cocoa,”).

 

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“This bar is made with chocolate liquor from the COCABO co-operative in Panama and cocoa butter from CONACADO in the Dominican Republic. The sugar and vanilla are also fairly traded and organic. The sugar comes from co-operatives in Paraguay and the vanilla from a co-operative in Madagascar,” (“Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate (80% Cacao)”).

The “Fair Trade” Debacle 

When Equal Exchange began it had a goal to challenge the existing conditions of the larger organizations who dealt with producer-consumer relations. The co-founders of Equal Exchange could recognize the issues with large, corporate structures dealing with fair trade and wanted to refine the process to help more small farming operations in better ways.

Fair Trade Certification is socially understood to be beneficial for the small farmers and farming co-operatives and an effective way for consumers to directly benefit the producers of their goods. Fair Trade USA  promises to encourage the following ideas in its trade relationships with producers:

  • Direct trade between producers and manufacturers
  • Fair prices for goods
  • Safe working conditions
  • No exploitation of labor
  • No child labor
  • Gender equity
  • Democratic and transparent principles
  • Reasonable work hours
  • Community development to support education, healthcare, etc
  • Environmental sustainability (Martin)

However, these goals are not completely satisfied by the organization. There are many issues with the Fair Trade system, such as not enough money directly returning to farmers, a lack of standardized quality control,  and the high cost of certification. Unlike Equal Exchange, it is not a worker-owned, fully democratic organization so workers do not have the autonomy and voice that they would if they were involved in smaller organizations. The most problematic of the shortcomings of the system- in the eyes of Equal Exchange- is the fact that Big Food has slowly become more involved in the Fair Trade system which leads to a higher involvement of large plantations rather than small farmers.

In 2011, Paul Rice, CEO of Fair Trade USA stated that he wanted to expand the Fair Trade Certification system by allowing larger plantations and suppliers of cacao, sugar, cotton and coffee to take part in the system (“World Affairs Council of Northern California”). In his explanation of his “Fair Trade for All,” campaign, Rice stated that the definition of Fair Trade should be expanded and allow for the purchase of goods from collections of famers or larger plantations, as long as they meet the proper certification requirements; however, this inclusion of large plantations will foster new competition in the Fair Trade system that may ultimately hurt small farmers. Farmers who are a part of the fair trade system became involved due to excessive competition from major producers and the resultant financial inequity; thus, Rice’s plan to broaden the scope of Fair Trade will recreate this type of harmful competition between producers. Rice’s defense for this campaign centers on the idea that Fair Trade should be inclusive and should work to involve as many producers as possible.

“I Stand With Small Farmers”

Almost immediately, Equal Exchange responded to Fair Trade USA’s plan with harsh criticism. Equal Exchange began a response campaign, named “I Stand with Small Farmers,” through which they ask consumers and manufacturers to stand in solidarity against the expansion of Fair Trade ceswsfemailsignature_0-1rtification to include plantations. The founders have hyperlinked statements and resources on their webpage that argue against the claims of Rice and Fair Trade USA, including lists of ally partners and media sources covering the debate.

The following quote is taken from their public petition against the Fair Trade for All plan:

“Therefore we vigorously oppose Fair Trade USA (previously TransFair USA)’s Fair Trade for All initiative, which seeks to allow coffee, cacao and other commodities from plantations into the Fair Trade system. This strategy means that small farmers will now be forced to compete with large plantations for market access… We oppose the lower standards Fair Trade USA proposes and the lack of farmer and producer governance on Fair Trade USA’s board. We believe that their Fair Trade For All initiative threatens small farmer co-operatives’ existence and Fair Trade itself.”

In 2012, Equal Exchange published a report on their fight with Fair Trade USA. The background summary explains that in the 1990s, Equal Exchange had collaborated with other organizations to create the certifying agent of TransFair USA which was supposed to create more consumer confidence in the products they were buying. Eventually, TransFair, which changed its name to Fair Trade USA in 2010, lowered their certification standards, began to certify major food businesses such as Chiquita and Dole and broke off from the FairTrade Labelling Organization (“Background Summary”).

Overall, Equal Exchange emphasizes its distrust of the organization and its issue with the idea of allowing large plantations to compete with already struggling small farmers.

swsfpostcardchart_0.jpg

Their self-published document, “Campaign FAQs” includes the following objection to Rice’s plan:

“Rather from our 26 years of Fair Trade experience we think their new methods represent a loose and misleading use of the term [Fair Trade] and a much diluted approach to product certification. We think their new criteria constitute little change from the status quo and, in fact, will undermine the substantial economic and social gains that the global Fair Trade movement has achieved to date,” (“Authentic Fair Trade Campaign FAQ’s”).

In his 2011 speech, co-founder of Equal Exchange Rink Dickinson states that this new plan is a threat to the stability and the success of fair trade development. He states:

“The gravest threat is the ongoing lowering of fair trade standards to the point where real fair trade groups cannot compete in the market because fair trade in name is cheap and well connected with the market and access is actually worse than it was before this movement started in earnest in the eighties… This threat plays out with few farmers coops beyond coffee and fair trade coffee coops getting weaker and being replaced by plantations, unaffiliated small farmers, and fake co-ops” (Dickinson).

Conclusion and The Effect of the Split

Equal Exchange has defended fair trade business strategies since its conception in 1986. The company goes above complying with fair trade standards but works to defend the name of “Fair Trade,” when it is put in jeopardy. It has expanded its own business ventures while reaching out to more farmers and more farming co-ops, ultimately trying to protect small producers from big business. The two most probable outcomes of this split between Fair Trade USA and Equal Exchange is increased competition among fair trade certified producers, which will ultimately hurt the smaller scale farming co-ops and benefit the large plantations, and a lack of unity among fair trade products. The already small percentage of fair trade products on the market will be splintered over brand-name recognition and popularity of big business.

 

Works Cited:

“Authentic Fair Trade Campaign FAQ’s.” Equal Exchange. 24 February 2012. Web. 03 May 2016.

“Background Summary.” Equal Exchange. January 2012. Web. 03 May 2016.

“Chocolate & Cocoa.” Fair Trade Chocolate and Cocoa. Web. 03 May 2016

“Chocolate Bars.” Organic Milk and Dark Chocolate Bars. Web. 01 May 2016.

“Chocolate Chips.” Organic and Fair Trade. Web. 01 May 2016.

“Chocolate Minis.” Gourmet Chocolate Minis. Web. 01 May 2016

“Cocoa.” Organic & Fair Trade. Web. 01 May 2016

Dickinson, Rink. “An Analysis of Fair Trade: Reflections from a Founder.” InterReligious Task Force Conference. Cleveland, Ohio. 23 October 2011. Speech.

Gunther, Marc. ”A Schism over Fair Trade.” Marc Gunther. Web. 30 April May 2016.

“History of Equal Exchange.” Equal Exchange. Web. 30 April May 2016.

Leogrande, William M. “Making the Economy Scream: U.S. Economic Sanctions Against Sandiest Nicaragua.” Third World Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 2 (1996): 329-348. Print.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/globalization.” African American Studies 199x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. MA, Cambridge. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

“Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate (65% Cacao).” Fairly Traded Coffee, Chocolate, Tea & Snacks. Web. 30 April 2016.

“Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate (80% Cacao).” Fairly Traded Coffee, Chocolate, Tea & Snacks. Web. 30 April 2016.

Rice, Paul. “Fair Trade for All.” Leaders Forum, Shaping the Global Sustainability Agenda. St. Gallen, Switzerland. February 2015. Speech.

“Worker-Owned.” Equal Exchange. Web. 01 May 2016.

“World Affairs Council of Northern California.” Speakers. Web. 01 May 2016.

Sugar: Past and Present

In most developed countries around the world, the sense that sugar is somehow a birthright is ubiquitous. Found in the diet of many western countries, it is an ever-present ingredient in many foods, most of which are pre-packaged or prepared in a fast, convenient manner. The United Kingdom comes to mind as one of these western countries; for example, one cannot help but think of the stereotypical  British custom of High Tea in the afternoon, drinking tea with sugar while snacking on sweet cakes and tidbits before supper. As popular as sugar is today, mass consumption of it was unheard of a few hundred years ago. In Britain, sugar was once hard to find and used very sparingly; this is in stark contrast to how much sugar is prevalent in the present day as well as the alarming rise in preventable diseases.

In his book Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz said “Sugar was a rarity in the mid 1600’s, a luxury in the mid 1700’s and virtual necessity by the mid 1800’s” (Mintz, 1986, pp. 147-148). Over time, as sugar became more popular in Britain, there were five main uses for it: sugar in medicine, sugar as a spice, sugar as decorative art, sugar as a sweetener, and finally sugar as a preservative. Sugar was a rarity before the seventeenth century as it was very difficult to access, mostly because of how much it cost. Although many people in Europe knew about sugar since the 1100’s, it was quite expensive to acquire. As such, for many years it was used in the diets of only the very elite and royalty (Martin, 2015).

The practice of using slaves as inexpensive labor, as well as mass production of sugarcane on plantations allowed the high costs associated with sugar to decrease.
The practice of using slaves as inexpensive labor, as well as mass production of sugarcane on plantations allowed the high costs associated with sugar to decrease.

Mintz states how sugar as a spice seemed to reach a peak approximately a hundred years earlier, in the sixteenth century (Mintz, 1986, p. 86). It was shortly after this time that production of sugar became much more cost effective. New British colonies in places where sugar cane could grow successfully, along with the influx of African slaves as free labor, cut the exorbitant costs associated with sugar (Cohen, 2013). Lower costs and greater production allowed more of the public in general to have access to sugar. In 1770, sugar consumption in Britain was five times greater than what it had been just sixty years earlier in 1710 (Taylor, 2012). By the nineteenth century, on average, sugar accounted for around one-sixth of the daily caloric intake for the British public (Mintz, 1986, p. 149).

In the United Kingdom today, the average adult (ages 19 to 64) consumes an average of 58.8 grams of added sugar per day (Jeavans, 2014). Multiply the total amount of grams by 365 days, and when converted to imperial units, equates to a total of 47.3 pounds (according to one’s own calculations) throughout one calendar year.

   This graph shows how much extra sugar, on average, people consume per day in the United Kingdom.
This graph shows how much extra sugar, on average, people consume per day in the United Kingdom.

According to Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, “Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses” (Cohen, 2013). This level of consumption easily qualifies for a high amount of sugar, considering it is an average for an entire nation of people. Chronic diseases are also linked with intakes of large amounts of sugar, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as an increased risk of obesity (Howard & Wylie-Rosett, 2002). Such diseases are indeed on the rise and are more prevalent than before. There is a consensus that the rapid rise in the role sugar places in our diet could be responsible for this (Cohen, 2013).

Sugar is found in most prepackaged foods in western diets today. Scholars believe there is a correlation between sugar consumption and preventable chronic diseases.
Sugar is found in most prepackaged foods in western diets today. Scholars believe there is a correlation between sugar consumption and preventable chronic diseases.

Around the world, the demand for sugar has never been higher. However, like the old saying goes, “you can have too much of a good thing.” Within the last few years, individuals are realizing the impact so much sugar can have on their overall health. Many people today who live in countries where consumption of sugar is high are not employed in occupations where a large amount of energy is required for work. People simply do not need to eat as much as they once had to, because they do not have the means to burn off all the energy and calories they consume on a typical day to day basis. The average daily amount of calories per day necessary for a farmer in Yorkshire in 1715 is not the same as a stockbroker in London in 2015; the farmer simply required more calories, as he did more physically strenuous work.  Moderation is the key to almost everything in life, and this without a doubt, includes sugar.  It would not be much of a stretch to see partitions partaking in iconic British High Tea using alternative sweeteners in their tea and snacks, without even noticing much of a difference!

 

Work Sited

 

Cohen, R. (2013, August). Sugar Love (A not so sweet story). National Geographic. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/sugar/cohen-text

Howard, B., & Wylie-Rosett, J. (2002). Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease. American Heart Association.  Retrieved March 4, 2015, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full

Jeavans, C. (2014, June 16). How much sugar do we eat? BBC News.  Retrieved March 4, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27941325 

Martin, C. (2015, February 25). Popular sweet tooths and scandal. Lecture conducted from Harvard Extension School , Cambridge.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.

Taylor, C. (2012). The Black Carib Wars freedom, survival, and the making of the Garifuna (p. 53). Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press.

 

Multimedia Sources

Photo of slaves at sugar cane plantation – http://www.organicnutrition.co.uk/articles/is-sugar-bad-for-you.htm 

Graph of daily consumption of extra sugar in UK – http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27941325 

Image of sugar cubes on pink background –http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/02/13591/quantity-sugar-food-supply-linked-diabetes-rates