Posted in Kafevend Blog
As you may remember from the end of last week, we had a look at the explosion of tea smuggling that went on during the 18th century in England. What's interesting is that this kind of thing still goes on, and so for a modern twist on this secretive crime, today we are going to look at cocoa smuggling in Ghana, one of the world's biggest cocoa producers.
The countries along the southern West African coast combined produce some 70% of the world's total cocoa supply. The Ivory Coast alone supplies about a third of global demand, with Ghana also producing a vast amount. Indonesia is one of the few places outside of Africa that produces such large quantities, and may be set to rival Ghana's second position in the future as the global demand for cocoa rises.
Unfortunately for the majority of cocoa farmers in West Africa, poverty is the norm. Most of the cocoa grown in the area is done so by smallholders who each tend to small plots of land which limits the amount of crops they can grow and therefore their ability to make money. It is unsurprising then that a large number resort to smuggling in order to make as much money as they can from the crops they have spent all that time and effort growing. Last year, problems were compounded in Ghana due to the fact that their currency, the cedi, crashed by around 40%.
Although the currency has stabilised and assistance is on its way from the International Monetary Fund, for the individual, a medium to long term investment plan isn't much good when you need to be able to put food on the table today. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that these farmers will risk smuggling their crops across the border to the Ivory Coast, where they can fetch a higher price. Whilst the Ghanian government raised the amount it would pay its farmers by 63% at the end of last year in a bid to reduce the smuggling, it is still occurring.
Unless drastic changes are made in the near future, it is unlikely that Ghanian and indeed other West African farmers will continue to grow cocoa. This represents something of a problem for companies that make chocolate and for chocolate lovers everywhere, as it will drive up prices for consumers. This only seems fair though really- would you be willing to work for hardly any money growing cocoa, knowing that your hard work was then going off to be sold for vast amounts of profit?
Whilst a solution to the problem requires support and work from all parts of the chain, you could always play a role by thinking about what chocolate you buy. Handily, Divine Chocolate sells Ghanian cocoa produced by members of Kuapa Kocoo, a Ghanian farmers union. 45% of the shares in Divine are owned by K.K. itself, meaning profits made by selling their bars are used to support the farmers who grew it in the first place by reinvesting it in infrastructure, for example. It might cost a little more, but showing support for fairer trade is certainly important.