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Fair trade chocolate: what does the label mean, exactly?

One of the most famous labels on chocolate there is Fairtrade. But what does that say exactly? We spoke to Karlien Wouters of Fairtrade Belgium and helderden this question for you.

© Fairtrade Belgium

How Fairtrade works

The green and blue Fairtrade label does a ring a bell, it is after all, a lot of products. Also, chocolate is a product with Fairtrade ingredients can be produced. Chocolate with such a label was produced under fair trading conditions. Companies to beat to organisations such as Fairtrade Belgium to Fairtrade, to buy and get a label on their products, which consumers consciously choose to fair trade support. There are several commercial partners (B2B) with the Fairtrade certificaatwerken, including 100% Fairtrade brands, supermarket chains, multinational companies, caterers and foodservice partners.

© Fairtrade

How we can be sure of that fair trade? The organization Fairtrade Belgium and its international umbrella organization, Fairtrade International have their strict criteria internationally checked by FLO-Cert, an autonomous and independent control mechanism. Annually, officers in the field in order to ascertain whether the farmers effectively according to the Fairtrade standards work. Sometimes the reports which will be made to adjustments within the organizations or, if there are major violations occurred or corrections were not made – to decertificering. Also the importers and the processors get a review and the control of the last link in the chain of production, the licensee, is for Fairtrade Belgium cvba.

What concerns has Fairtrade Belgium, over the current cocoa industry and promises that are made?

Karlien Wouters : “The great cacaospelers announce currently one of their ambitious sustainability schemes . We are happy with that, because only together with the big companies, we can really bring change to the cocoa farmers. Nevertheless, we are concerned. The problems in the cacaoketen are very complex and show a grinding poverty that is the result of many years of lack of investment. Now, suddenly, as a company, immense programs on let go is not for all farmers and problems a solution. Cooperation with public authorities and NGOS is crucial here, both locally as well as in the rest of the chain.

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The problems in the cacaoketen are very complex and show a grinding poverty that is the result of many years of lack of investment.

And this is where our problem lies. Companies give you have to want to cooperate, but the most important claim of the NGOS is, again, not completed: a fair compensation for the farmers. Sustainable production without proper compensation will in the long term will not solve the problems. The investment programs are almost all focused on the pursuit of higher productivity. It is good that there is a productivity work, without the better production by the cocoa farmers, it is indeed difficult to increase their income. But it is no automatism, more production does not automatically lead to a higher income, and the disappearance of child labour. As long as you are not a fair fee, you have your children on the plantation, you dare not to invest in a business where you as an experienced farmer believes, and let your future depend on these companies.

“I believe that companies are very committed to productivity, and that they sympathize with the farmers, but we want them to look beyond their aankoopbelangen. We propose that the a ‘and-and’-the story, in which we, as an organisation, bottom-up with the farmers to work together and discover what their needs exactly are, and from there companies on a fair way with them to work together. It is important that programs of the international cocoa farms remotely monitored in the coming years, from various angles, to determine whether the plan works long-term.’

© Fairtrade Belgium

What distinguishes fair trade from other labels?

Karlien Wouters: “The focus for us is the farmers in the South. The most important thing is the first step: who is the cocoa purchased and under what conditions?

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For us, the price is central, and we look at the negotiation between the buyer and the seller.

That is the biggest difference with other labels. For us, the price is central, and we look at the negotiation between the buyer and the seller. It is often said that a higher productivity directly for more revenue, but that is certainly not always so. More productivity also makes for higher costs. When the market price is low, it is crucial to us that the farmers know that they have a right to a certain price. Our system of a minimum price is a type of safety net. If they know what they at least will receive, they can plan and invest for the long term. The premium that they receive if they are Fairtrade certified is also a great perk for the community.

It endorses Fairtrade also a lot of importance to the organization of the farmers. The farmer cooperatives should be for a chance to win a Fairtrade certificate on a sustainable, and therefore democratic, way to organize. The members of these co-operatives have a say in the functioning of the group and where the money is spent. There should also be trainings for the farmers to be provided, and the premium should be invested in things that all members benefit.

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The cooperatives are very important because they are the ones who will sell it to cocoa farms.

‘The cooperatives are very important because they are the ones who will sell to cocoa farms and so on can ensure that all farmers get a fair deal. You can not get from the farmers individually expect that they all of the financial and organizational burden of daily follow.

Occasionally, it runs also in the cooperatives wrong, because the leaders of the cooperatives are not sufciently aware of how management responsibilities. Something we, therefore, support on offer is that the management of the cooperatives. We have pertaining to a number of programs, to give them management techniques. That we often do together with the big players, that also, more important.’

Fairtrade chocolate is more expensive than non-certified chocolate?

Karlien Wouters: ‘A fair price for the cocoa farmer and sustainable production does not mean immediately that the chocolate is much more expensive for the consumer. The percentage of the price of the end product to the farmer is limited, so that the price increase is not too bad.

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The reason that Fairtrade chocolate is now still more expensive is because the volumes are very low.

The reason that Fairtrade chocolate is now still more expensive is because the volumes in which fair trade chocolate can be purchased very low. Had that volumes are higher, would the price difference be much smaller, because the fixed costs would be less biased. Also, fair trade chocolate often of high quality. You may have the price so don’t just compare with the cheapest chocolate in the shop. In general, it is true that sustainability in a product is a cost, so cheap and very durable, is not evident.’

Consumers can be sure that the certified chocolate they buy in a fair way was produced?

Karlien Wouters: ‘All the ingredients of the chocolate that is Fairtrade, should be that. But for the cocoa in the chocolate, companies can opt for mass balance or for full traceability. Mass balance means that the Fairtrade cocoa is not transported separately. All cocoa, certified and non-certified, in this case, on one hope to go in containers. You can be sure that the weight in Fairtrade cocoa, which is purchased also is actually somewhere in a fair manner, was produced and sold, but that is not necessarily the cocoa in your candy bar.

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No sales means no impact for the farmers and so we have from Fairtrade, the system of mass balance allowed.

In an ideal world, of course, is all cocoa and certified sustainable and it does not matter all that a lot of land. But that is not so. That has to do with the extra costs when you are Fairtrade cocoa through the entire processing separated . So is the chocolate so expensive that consumers can no longer of interest, and we are not Fairtrade chocolate to sell more. No sales means no impact for the farmers and so we have from Fairtrade, the system of mass balance allowed.

We can expect Belgian chocolate always honest?

Karlien Wouters: ‘People are always thinking the best of Belgian chocolate, but actually that ‘Belgian’ but a small step in the chain. If chocolate ‘Belgian’ is, want to still say nothing about the cocoa farmers in the South and how they were treated. That is sin, because Belgian chocolate is something we’re proud of, want to be, but a large part we can actually not (yet) proud of. We have good hope . We see that there are a lot of moves and that is positive. Of course that also has to do with the necessity that all parties in the last few years feel.

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We have a good hope. We see that there are a lot of moves and that is positive.

DGD (Directorate General for development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid), the body within federal government that development cooperation works, it organizes, for example, an afternoon on the cocoa sector with the theme ‘entrepreneurship for development’. The intention is that the companies together to talk about how they are using the cocoa industry for development.

Also from the EU, a new ISO standard being developed for the cocoa industry to sustainable cocoa is the norm. To October different parties, including Fairtrade, their views about the standard, which is currently being re-restated. We expect a final decision until June 2017. It is quite a lot of lobbying to ensure that this ISO-standard is also genuinely sustainable and not just for the clean appearance is developed.’

Lotte Philipsen Is Admitted

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