Monday, February 14, 2011

Cookoo for Cocoa?

When I think Valentine's Day I think flowers and chocolate. When I think flowers and chocolate I think fair trade and worker's rights. Here's why you should too.

Most cut flowers in the United States are imported. Over 100,000 workers in Latin America work in the industry, cutting and exporting roses and carnations, many subject to labor rights violations. Flower workers in African countries like Uganda make less than $1 a day. Similarly, the cocoa industry is known for its unfair wages. In Ivory Coast, some cocoa farmers average only about 20 cents/lb of dried cocoa. The price of chocolate bars has not significantly increased in decades due to price fixing by the major corporations.

Price of cocoa and sugar over past 50 years.

As fate would have it, last week
I had two guests from the Kallari Cooperative in Ecuador staying at my house while they were meeting with distributors and consumers around Seattle. Farmers at this cooperative not only grow the beans but process them too, cutting costs and enabling themselves to make close to $2.00/lb dried cocoa. They taught me about the bean to bar process and also about the fair trade model itself, actually raising questions about how fair it really is (a debate for another time). For now, we have certifications like fair trade to indicate to consumers that these companies are upholding certain ethical, fair wage principles.

So while flowers and chocolate may show someone your husband/wife/girlfriend/partner/best friend that you are thinking about them, buying fair trade shows that you're thinking of human rights worldwide as well.

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