The Chocolate Challenge
No, it is not a competition to see who can eat the most chocolate biscuits during an episode of Eastenders. Nor who can name the most different types of chocolate bar on our supermarket shelves. Neither is it a pledge to go without chocolate for a whole day.
This week, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, called for a boycott of all chocolate that is not certified as Fairtrade. This is “the chocolate challenge”. Recognising that we are a nation of chocoholics, – we eat more chocolate than any other nation in Europe – he urged us to always choose only fair trade chocolate and to ask for it in stores where it is not available, adding “If you keep that promise, you could be playing your part in ending a 21st-century iniquity.”
The Archbishop was speaking in Hull, the constituency of MP William Wilberforce, who put an end to the slave trade 200 years ago. What better place to point out that slavery is far from a thing of the past. According to the Stop the Traffik campaign for an end to modern slavery, more than 12,000 trafficked children are working on Ivory Coast plantations to produce 43 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans. So whilst child labour is prohibited in Britain, there is a clear link between cocoa bean production and the ongoing slave trade.
Ironically, as Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent for the Times points out on 31st October, most of the leading chocolate manufacturers in Britain were Quakers, many of whom campaigned for the abolition of slavery. An additional irony: Dr John Sentamu’s archiepiscopal seat is in the same city as the confectioner Nestlé Rowntree.
Cadbury does own the chocolate manufacturer Green & Black’s, founded in 1991 and awarded Britain’s first Fairtrade mark in 1994. Nestlé also has a stake in an independent supplier of Fairtrade chocolate.
According to Robert Beckford in “The Great African Scandal” aired on Channel Four about a month ago, only 3% of the cocoa beans produced under fair trade conditions by the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana are sold at the fair trade premium price. Consequently, 97% of their produce is grown under fair trade regulations – that is no child labour, fair wages for all workers – without obtaining a fair price.
So the fair trade produce is out there, but the big manufacturers refuse resolutely to pay a fair trade price. They know their have won our hearts via our stomachs. “The chocolate challenge” could be the only way to make a difference.
But can we actually do it? Do any of us have the willpower? Availability, variety, familiarity all conspire to tempt us back to our favourite brands. A fair trade choice is out there – Divine, Green and Blacks, Traidcraft, the Co-op to name a few – delicious alternatives admittedly, but still the decision involves forethought, resolve and the confidence to speak out. Not just as an occasional treat that tastes good and makes our conscience feel better for a while. This is a boycott of all non Fairtrade chocolate. Doesn’t it boil down in the end to whether any of us really care enough? Do you?
This post was first published on the Hometruth.org.uk , November 8th 2007.