First discovered by the Mayans in 250 A.D., Europeans developed a taste for cocoa after the Spanish conquistadors brought it to Spain in the 16th century. Cocoa crops were introduced to West Africa at the end of the 19th century. Today, 67% of cocoa production comes from West Africa, with 43% from the country of Côte d’Ivoire alone.

Close to 14 million people, in over 30 countries, depend on cocoa production. The crop is grown mainly in the tropical regions of the global South.

Around 90% of the world’s cocoa supply is grown and harvested on family-owned farms with plot sizes of 12 acres or less. Smaller family farms produce an average of 350 pounds of cocoa per acre in a year’s harvest, generating an average annual income of US$30-100 per household member.

Bitter Chocolate

Unfortunately, cocoa has a dark side. The production and trading conditions in the cocoa market make it very difficult for producers to earn a living.

Cocoa farmers are often forced to negotiate with intermediaries who pay only a fraction of the actual value of their crop. As a result, farmers are often paid prices which don’t begin to cover the costs of production.

Producers also have limited access to information about what is going on in the market or how much their crops are worth, and many cannot get affordable credit.

The difficulty in making a living from cocoa farming has led to an increase in child labour, and even slave labour, in the cocoa trade. In 2001, the International Labour Organization and others reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.

Under the umbrella of Fairtrade International (FLO), farmers who produce Fairtrade certified cocoa are organized democratically and receive a minimum price which covers the costs of sustainable production. They also receive a Fairtrade Premium to invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities. And there’s more…

The international standards for Fairtrade certified cocoa are:

Producers are small family farms organized in co-operatives (or associations), which they own and govern.
The minimum guaranteed price is paid directly to the producer co-op. The minimum floor price is currently set at US$2000/metric ton (MT) for conventional cocoa beans and US$2300/MT for organic cocoa beans. When the world market price is higher than Fair Trade, the market price, plus the premium, is paid to producers.
A Fairtrade Premium of US$200/MT is included in the purchase price. This premium is used by cooperatives for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment, and loans to members.
Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.
Pre-harvest lines of credit, of up to 60% of the purchase price, are given to cooperatives if requested.
No forced labour of any kind, including child labour, is permitted.


Cocoa trees develop slowly, taking up to 10 years to achieve maximum yield. Cocoa pods are about the size of footballs and contain pulp and moist white cocoa beans which are fermented, dried, and roasted.

The beans often go through alkalization to improve colouring and flavour, and are then reduced to a cocoa liquor. This liquor can can be pressed to make cocoa butter, cocoa powder, or mixed with other ingredients to become chocolate. Fairtrade certified cocoa today is used in a wide variety of products including chocolate milk, frozen desserts, hot chocolate, baked goods and, of course, chocolate bars!


Canadians consume an average of 5.5 kg of chocolate per person each year.
Fairtrade certified cocoa was first sold in Canada in 2002.

Fairtrade certified cocoa sold in the Canadian market is mainly grown by 16 certified cocoa producer organizations, which represents over 70,000 cocoa growers in 11 countries.

For the complete article and more information of fair trade chocolate go to