It's not every day that there's an opportunity to sample the finest fair trade wines and chocolate in such grand surroundings.
Last night, Trading Visions attended a wine, cheese and chocolate tasting held in the beautifully ornate Judges' Dining Room at the Old Bailey!
We were guided expertly through the selections by Sarah Jane Evans, who is not only a Master of Wine, but is also a board member of the Academy of Chocolate! Yes, there is an institution, set up in 2005, devoted to "eating fine chocolate".
What was particularly special about the evening was Sarah Jane's lively descriptions of the different producers behind the products. For example, Rococo partner with the Grenada Chocolate company, and buy their cocoa beans directly from them, which means more money goes back to the Grenada Organic Cocoa Farmers' Cooperative.
Sarah Jane advocates for choosing quality chocolate that is ethically sourced and traded, but also commented that "in the end you have to decide whether you like it as chocolate."
Trading Visions invites you to make that decision at our fair trade chocolate and wine tasting event which is on Thursday 7th July, 7-9pm at Fairly Square. There will be a range of delicious Divine Chocolate to try with the accompanying Fair Trade wine, as well as savoury nibbles.
The Fairtrade Foundation recently pubished a useful "commodity briefing" on Fairtrade and Cocoa, combining a clear and succinct overview of the global cocoa industry with a case for why Fairtrade is needed.
The broad picture it paints is one of growing global demand for chocolate, driven by rising incomes in emerging economies, increasingly outstripping available cocoa supplies. In West Africa, the productivity of cocoa farming is low, with a lack of access to finance and technology, outdated farming methods, and no incentives to improve depleted soil or replace ageing trees.
Cocoa farmers in West Africa are likely to receive 3.5 to 6.4 per cent of the value of a chocolate bar, compared with around 16 per cent in the 1980s. Over the same period, the manufacturers' share has increased from 56 to 70 per cent and the retailers' from 12 to 17 per cent. Often their children can see no future in cocoa: the average age of a cocoa farmer in West Africa is 51 years.
Trading Visions has published a Chocolate Scorecard assessing the main chocolate companies active in the UK market on their progress towards a more sustainable chocolate supply chain.
We scrutinise Kraft/Cadbury, Mars and Nestle alongside smaller players. These three companies control 83% of the £3.7bn UK chocolate market, and 43% of the £62bn global market.
Despite having all committed to clear ethical plans they contribute just £20m in total to support cocoa producers, no more than 0.1% or 0.2% of their turnover on chocolate sales.
It is quite a promising picture compared to five or ten years ago, with most companies finally investing in cocoa farmers’ livelihoods and lots of interesting things happening. But it is also evident that the big players are global giants, and they could be doing so much more.
Trading Visions will be producing the scorecard report annually to monitor the chocolate industry’s performance across a number of ethical indicators, from Fairtrade and organic certification, through to child labour and the use of controversial palm oil. We would really welcome feedback on how it could be improved.
We want to start a constructive conversation to better help campaigners and consumers understand the reality behind the all the initiatives, commitments and marketing.
The run up to Easter, when the British prepare to chomp their way through 80m Easter eggs, is the traditional time of year for guilt fuelled exposés of the continuing problem of child labour in the cocoa industry.
A recently aired Panorama documentary sees a renewed media focus on the issue in the UK, one of many since harrowing stories of West African child slaves first came to global public attention ten years ago.
That original media and public outcry paved the way for the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary code of self-regulation that has defined chocolate industry efforts to tackle the worse forms of child labour in the supply chain over the past nine years.
Children and chocolate have long been associated; it is because chocolate is such a potent symbol of the innocent joys of childhood that revelations about children being trafficked or forced to undertake hazardous and excessive work on cocoa farms are so incendiary.
For this blog post, Trading Visions reflects on some of these issues, with contributions from four authors exploring the intersection of childhood and chocolate.
What has big chocolate been doing about child labour in the cocoa industry?
by Michael Niemann
Child labour and cocoa: whose voices prevail?
by Amanda Berlan
Chocolate and childhood in the North
by Catherine Phipps
Report from a child labour workshop in Ghana
by Tom Allen
A BBC Panorama documentary filmed in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire was aired last night that highlighted the continuing problem of child labour in the cocoa industry, ten years after the issue was brought to global media attention with harrowing stories of West African child slaves in 2000 and 2001.
It has been nine years since international public concern led to the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary code of self-regulation created by the chocolate industry to prevent the worst forms of child labour in the supply chain. The protocol was originally created to stave off proposed US legislation that would have required all chocolate sold in America to state on the label that it is “child slave labour free”. Unfortunately, little progress has been made.
The focus in the Panorama documentary on incidences of child labour among farmers supplying cocoa to two Fairtrade cooperatives in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire reminds us that the Fairtrade Mark does not guarantee “no child labour”, it guarantees a fair price to farmers and a Fairtrade premium to farmers' organisations. However Fairtrade does clearly emerge in the documentary as the only credible system that can trace cocoa back to individual farms and thus take remedial action when breaches of standards on child labour are identified.