Fair’s Fair

Beatrice Asante KUAPA JAN 2009 016

The WATWB focuses on good news. So I thought, what could be better news than a bar of chocolate? The real stuff, I mean, not the muck we get from Hershey’s or Cadbury. Dark chocolate full of cocoa, concentrated and bitter. Divine. And Divine is the name of a chocolate bar produced by Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers’ co-op in Ghana. Which isn’t just good on consumers’ taste buds but also, as explained on their website, for producers’ pockets. Kuapa Kokoo – which means good cocoa growers – has a mission to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in all of Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa. 

Fairtrade, to quote the definition given by the Fairtrade Foundation, is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Nothing, though, can be taken for granted, and I was dismayed the other day to read of plans by two leading UK supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, to drop the Fairtrade label for tea (to begin with) and develop their own scheme instead. Now, why would they abandon a system which may indeed have its flaws, but has proved its effectiveness and now benefits 1.6 million farmers worldwide? Despite their protestations to the contrary, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a ploy to restore their own profits at the expense of local producers.

All is not lost, though, since at Sainsbury’s latest annual meeting, shareholders protested vigorously at the move. Which has to be good news too, since the supermarkets can safely ignore the farmers but not their own shareholders. Neither can they afford to ignore consumers, so here’s a link to a petition you can sign to apply a bit more pressure. After all, it’s in our own interests too if we like our chocolate divine.

Thanks to  Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanInderpreet UppalSylvia Stein and Damyanti Biswas for co-hosting this month’s WATWB.