Chocolate is undoubtedly among the world’s favorite treats — but growing the beans that go into our bars isn’t quite so straightforward.

Holding Raw Cocoa

The main regions where beans are grown are Africa, Asia and Latin America, with Côte d’Ivoire the largest producing country by volume, responsible for 40% of global supply.

Cocoa trees grow within 15 to 20 degrees latitude from the equator. Hot, rainy and tropical is the ideal climate, with lots of vegetation to shade the trees.

Cocoa is a sensitive crop and trees need protection from sun, wind, diseases and pests. With the right care, cocoa trees will start to yield pods at peak production levels around the fifth year, and can keep producing for 10 years. But despite this hard work and a lucrative global cocoa trade, cocoa farmers often don’t receive their fair share. 

The international price of cocoa beans is increasing as demand for cocoa products, like Fairtrade chocolate, rises in response to a possible long-term shortfall in global supply. Cocoa trees are being damaged by age and disease while the number of farmers is decreasing as young people are put off by the poor benefits farmers earn. In fact, 50 is the average age of a cocoa farmer.

But farmers aren’t benefiting enough from the price rise and as production and living costs increase, what they earn doesn’t keep up.

Fairtrade is contributing to greater sustainability for cocoa farming in countries like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire through payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and extra Fairtrade Premium, which farmer organizations can invest in business improvement or community projects. It’s what makes savoring a Fairtrade chocolate bar that much more enjoyable!

In 2012-13, cocoa farmers earned over $10.8 million in Fairtrade Premium which was used largely to support farmers’ day-to-day needs such food and school fees for their children – which is telling of the fact that cocoa farming currently is not sustainable.

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