Conflict Chocolate?

The UN and other organizations have an ongoing campaign to stop the trade in conflict diamonds that finance wars in Sierra Leone and Angola. The conflict diamond issue has spawned a big-budget Hollywood movie, and there is now a multi-national Kimberley Process that insures that these diamonds do not enter the world supply chain.

There are now troubling reports that chocolate revenues are financing civil war in Ivory Coast. Cacao is a little different than diamonds, in that, for the most part, it is traded as a bulk commodity like wheat or soybeans, so buyers may not be totally aware of where their cacao is coming from. There are also reports of smugglers moving cacao beans across borders to obscure their origin. It seems highly doubtful that the chocolate industry could turn off the supply from Ivory Coast, as this is the source of nearly half the world’s supply of cacao. There are other African suppliers (Ghana, Togo, Sao Tome, and Madagascar all produce cacao), but none are as large as Ivory Coast.

Consumers, on the other hand, have a wide variety of choices, and there are hundreds of origin-labelled chocolates on the market. By buying origin-labelled artisan chocolate, you not only know where your chocolate comes from, you are also getting a better product from a maker that works in partnership with their growers as opposed to buying generic beans through a middleman. (Not to mention that your tastebuds will celebrate your decision!)

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