Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Cocoa Smuggling Matters

It has been a while, Sisters and Brothers, since your Chocolate Priestess remarked upon the Sacred Substance in the news outside of health claims since those are increasing at a rapid pace it seems and being misused and misreported in an effort to increase all chocolate sales regardless of their actual healthiness.  Today I want to look at crime related to cocoa.

Most of the world's chocolate is produced in only a few nations, most of them quite poor by comparison with Europe and North America even though cocoa's price is at an all time high and going higher ever week it seems.  Some nations try to control the production of cocoa on a national scale, while others allow capitalism to rule, but many others do a combination of these approaches, allowing independent or corporate growers but regulating the industry to varying degrees.

One reason regulation is important because cacao plants can be infested with insects as well as targeted by molds, fungi and diseases all of which decrease production and cut into profits.  Cross contamination of different cacao varieties as well as any intruder can be brought in by human or vehicle contact.  Regulation can help nations guard their borders, their farmers and their economies by controlling what comes into the land and limiting some cross contamination though I think only a fool would believe you could control everything, Sisters and Brothers.

I first became aware of smuggling as a real problem back in August but I've been busy with Revelations, Piligrimages, and talking to all of you, that I haven't had time to do more research and write about it here.  It turns out this was a good thing because there have been many developments.  First, the problem is spreading as both cacao growers and cocoa thieves clash in Ghana, Togo, and the Ivory Coast.  Notice these three nations which have repeated shown up in the news in 2009 about cocoa smuggling are all located along the coastline of the Gulf of Guinea in western Africa.

I'm sure that cocoa smuggling happens in other areas of the world as well but Ghana's problems are so large that their government has taken several steps to try and deal with it including more regulation and tougher laws but farmers complain repeated in the dozens and dozens of articles I read that these are not enforced.  There is also talk of trying to raise the prices of cocoa further to curb smuggling though that might help with internal smuggling I don't think it will help curb it from outside the nation.  It is an important concern for Ghana since it is the second largest cocoa producing nation in the world behind the Ivory Coast whichis also have problems with smuggling.

You as consumers should be worried about smuggling for a couple of reasons.  First, smuggling is a crime and do you think it is part of our Path here in The Chocolate Cult to encourage or support criminal activities? Of course not, we want honorable companies to produce the chocolates we use.  Second, smuggled cocoa has no chain of production which means we can't know for certain where it comes from or how it is produced.  Not only may it be produced by slave labor or under terrible farming conditions, but it may not be the quality you honestly want and need from cocoa.  Finally, if none of that moves you, consider the cost in terms of your hard earned money, Sisters and Brothers.  Some reports I've seen this year place the increased price of cocoa attributed to smuggling as high as 30%.  30%, that's 30¢ more per dollar that you are paying to cover the costs of smuggling through greater regulation, increased law enforcement, destroyed cocoa product when it is discovered by inspectors and police, and simply economic lose to the nations and growers that produce it.

Sadly there is not much that we can do about smuggling.  While companies can certify that they don't use child labor, protect fair trade, or use ecological friendlier methods, there is little certification for buying non-smuggling cocoa.  My best advice is to try and stick with companies that can make these other claims because they are more aware of where their ingredients come from and there is less room for smuggled product to introduce itself into the process. You can also buy from farmer owned and created chocolatiers and I have Revealed some of those to you here and will continue to do so on the "Sacraments" both Saturday and Special label.

I know, you just want to enjoy your chocolate but think of how much better quality your chocolate will be, how much lower the price, if we are concerned with and urge nations to do more about cocoa smuggling world wide.  Every little bit you and I do, can have a great impact if we just stop and think for a few seconds before buying that next treat.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.


Dessertcrazy said...

Yipes! I didn't know this existed. Thanks for enlightening me.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

I knew that chocolate had been used in a few crimes I've covered on here but I didn't know that smuggling the cocoa itself was such a big problem. I'm glad you enjoyed the information, Dessertcrazy, and thank you for reading and commenting.

Cacao-Me said...

Thank you for this. I did not know that such things are taking place in this beautiful world of chocolate. Please update us with more as you unearth more, and I will do likewise. Not only do you bless us with your stories, reviews, and insights, you are deepening our knowledge and empowering us for justice. On this week of thanksgiving, THANK YOU for all you do in leading our chocolate cult.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thank you for the wonderful comments, Cacao-Me. They made my day!

I know that in terms of numbers it is the reviews of products and the visits to chocolatiers that pulls in the high numbers. But I want this to be more than a worry about the number of readers I get, I want to learn and grow on this Path and if I can help anyone else learn and grow, then I've done my job and I feel good.

nemaybterprsn said...

Thank you for bring light on this matter.
Human trafficking and slave labor in many types of industries including the cocoa industry is becoming a bigger problem than it has ever been.

There are 2 ways to make our voices heard and/or to do something about this.

Please, if you can distribute this link to your readers so at least some action is taken toward a closer goal that the chocolate we consume is not hurting those that make it available to chocolate lovers everywhere.
They can send the postcard through the mail directly to the CEO of Hershey, see link for additional content

There is also a petition available that you can print out for people to sign that asks Hershey to be transparent in the sourcing of their cocoa beans, and begin sourcing Fair Trade Certified Cocoa.

Thank you so much!!!

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