7 Jul 2022

Why choosing Fairtrade chocolate makes a difference

Think all chocolate is the same? What about all the different sustainability labels you find on supermarket shelves? On World Chocolate Day -- think again!

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Fairtrade cocoa is grown in more than 20 countries and goes into some of your favourite chocolate products.
Association for promoting Fairtrade in Finland

If you love chocolate and you want your choices to actually make a difference for farmers, here’s what Fairtrade means – for incomes, empowerment, and farmers having control over their own futures.

1. Fairtrade farmers are empowered to organize democratically and become more sustainable.

Farmer-owned cooperatives are central to Fairtrade. When small farmers join together and organize themselves democratically, they have more resources and more power in trade relationships, ultimately resulting in higher incomes.

The Fairtrade West Africa Cocoa Programme provides training and other services to cocoa cooperatives, to strengthen them as accountable membership organizations and as sustainable business partners. Cooperatives and their farmer members choose to learn more on a range of topics, including governance, financial management, occupational health and safety, women's and children's rights, and more. According to the programme’s most recent monitoring report, 100 percent of cocoa cooperative managers reported that the programme’s trainings contributed directly to positive improvements in their organization, such as diversifying household income activities, good agricultural practices, stronger management of the cooperative, better adherence to the Fairtrade Standards and more.

Strong cooperatives require good data. We have partnered with FarmForce to support 25 Ivorian cocoa cooperatives to implement internal management software, putting the power of data for decision making in farmers’ hands and increasing ‘first mile’ traceability of cocoa from farms to buyers.

2. Fairtrade guarantees farmers a financial safety net, even if global cocoa prices go down.

We are the only major certification label that guarantees farmers earn a price that supports costs of sustainable production, and in 2019 we increased our Fairtrade Minimum Price by 20 percent. Farmers can always negotiate and earn more when market prices are higher.

In our cocoa farmer income study in Côte d’Ivoire last year, we found that household incomes were 85 percent higher on average than what we found four years before, and fewer households were living in poverty. One challenge is that the majority of cooperatives can’t sell all their cocoa on Fairtrade terms, so they don’t receive the financial benefits of Fairtrade for their entire crop. The same study showed that if farmers could earn the Fairtrade Minimum Price on all the cocoa they sold to their cooperative, this would increase average farmer household incomes by nine percent.

3. Fairtrade cooperatives earn a Premium, and control it 100%.

The mandated Fairtrade Premium for cocoa also increased by 20 percent last year: the highest fixed premium of any major certification. Cooperatives are paid the additional Premium amount on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price, and they decide how to invest it in projects of their choice. In 2020, Fairtrade cocoa cooperatives earned more than €37 million in Premium.

What types of things do coops spend their Premium on? The biggest categories are investments in the cooperatives themselves and services to farmers, including direct cash payments to boost incomes (representing more than one-fifth of Premium spending in 2020), and procurement of tools and other farm inputs.

Using Fairtrade Premium funds, cooperatives can expand their businesses in new directions, and develop their communities. A coffee cooperative in Honduras used their Premium to diversify into cocoa, and build a chocolate factory of their own. A cocoa producer organization in Côte d’Ivoire was able to install hydraulic water pumps and build new classrooms for their communities – making the farmers benefactors within their communities. What’s most important is that the farmers themselves decide – and benefit.

4. Women cocoa farmers are growing as business owners and leaders.

The Fairtrade Women’s School of Leadership in Côte d’Ivoire is training its fourth cohort of women cocoa farmers – and male allies – who are developing themselves as leaders within their organizations, and realizing their own economic empowerment. The year-long programme provides practical training in skills such as finance, negotiation and decision-making, and builds a community of camaraderie and support.

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Cocoa farmer Lucia Mansaray is a member of Fairtrade certified cooperative Ngoleagorbu in Sierra Leone. Social and environmental justice are important to this community, and Lucia is now the chairperson of the cooperative's Fairtrade Premium Committee.
Dominique Fofanah

Fairtrade Standards require equal treatment of women and men, and encourage formation of things like Women’s Committees within cooperatives to raise up and address the issues that women farmers are facing. Lucia Mansaray, member of Ngoleagorbu cocoa cooperative in Sierra Leone, has seen the difference: “Women now take part in leadership roles and have key responsibilities. That would never have happened before. We feel more empowered in our community.” She herself is now the chairperson of her coop’s Fairtrade Premium Committee.

5. Farmers can make progress toward living incomes.

In West Africa, the majority of cocoa farmers still live in poverty, driven by many factors including small farm sizes, low productivity and low global prices.

We’re committed to putting the pieces in place that will enable cocoa farmers to earn living incomes. We’ve set Fairtrade Living Income Reference Prices for cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, higher than our Minimum Price, which some companies are voluntarily paying as part of innovative living income pilot projects. We are also working with others to advocate for governments to require companies to take action on living income. This includes the European Union legislation in development on human rights and environmental due diligence, which we believe must include reference to living incomes and paying farmers the necessary prices.

6. There’s a lot of deliciousness to choose from!

Fairtrade certified chocolate producers are found in more than 20 countries, primarily in West Africa but also in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador and more. The majority of Fairtrade cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire (about 68%), while most organic Fairtrade cocoa comes from Latin America. So no matter whether you’re looking for baking chocolate, cocoa power, or specialty origins, the more than 440,000 cocoa farmers represented in the Fairtrade system have you covered.

If you’re looking for Fairtrade chocolate in your country, check the website of your national Fairtrade organization, or the Fairtrade Finder on our website (filter for “cocoa” and “licensed” and search for your country).

Chocolate is delicious – but fair and sustainable chocolate tastes so much better. So grab your favourite Fairtrade chocolate today and enjoy!