When people purchase cocoa and cocoa products from farmers who are fairly paid for their work, their purchases are known as fair trade cocoa. To be listed as fair trade, cocoa must be purchased at a minimum price, or floor price. It also must not foster environmental harm nor forced or child labor.
Fair trade cocoa is primarily produced in South and Central America. It is typically grown in Belize, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Cameroon, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Fair trade chocolate is often organic and natural as well. Organic cocoa that has not been treated with pesticides is generally more costly than non-organic cocoa. Though higher in cost, cocoa labeled as fair trade is considered an ethical choice by many people.
Cocoa that comes from fair trade sources is usually available in many different forms. It can be powdered, liquid, or solid. Hot cocoa, chocolate bars, and even holiday candy can be purchased from fair trade sources. Some restaurants also make use of fair trade cocoa in their cooking.
Farmers who sell their cocoa through fair trade organizations are usually trained in sustainable growing methods. Education and healthcare services may also be provided for workers. Growers may join a fair trade cooperative to ensure their rights. Such farmers are also encouraged to sell their cocoa directly to avoid costly service fees.
Most cocoa produced in the world is not fair trade. Instead, it is often made by farmers in tropical regions who are underpaid for their crops. Often uneducated and lacking negotiation skills, these farmers typically do not receive much revenue from their sales. In countries like Ghana, where cocoa makes up nearly half of the national revenue, this situation can keep many people in poverty.
Another concern about non-fair trade cocoa is the common use of child labor on cocoa plantations. Kidnapped and sold through human trafficking, thousands of children are forced to grow cocoa in Africa without collecting wages. Hundreds of thousands of other children, while not kidnapped, still must work in the fields for their families for very little pay. Most are under age 14 and do not attend school, working long hours in often unsafe conditions. These plantations provide cocoa for some of the largest chocolate companies in the world.
Health food stores, specialty markets, and Internet companies often carry fair trade cocoa products. When fair trade food is certified, it is marked with an international black and white seal of certification. These labels either read Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade Certified™.