There has been a long history of exploitation, corruption and greed in the chocolate industry with the goal to maximize profit at any cost as the source.
Multi-National chocolate corporations ("Big Chocolate") often purchase cheap, low quality cocoa beans from corrupt cartels who frequently use their profits to purchase weapons to fight their civil wars.
To survive under these economic conditions, cocoa farmers must keep production costs to a minimum. To accomplish this, farmers must cultivate high yielding but low quality Forestero cocoa, use inferior fermentation and drying techniques, disregard the environment and partake in abusive labour techniques that often exploit children.
Mulit-National discount stores purchase almost entirely from suppliers who can provide the lowest cost products. To keep their costs low many of these suppliers have no choice but to produce their products in third world "sweat shops". "Big Chocolate" was already exploiting cocoa farmers, so no need to change their strategy to be the low cost chocolate supplier for the multi-national retailers.
Fortunately, some people see the world differently. As a result, there's a movement to promote a fairer world economy. One of these movements is "Fair Trade", which ensures cocoa bought directly from a farmer or a farmers' cooperative is purchased above cartel pricing. Fair Trade improves the livelihoods of farmers, increases the well being of communities and allows farmers to pay their workers fair wages.
However, consumers often use "Fair Trade" certification as their only criteria for purchasing a bar of chocolate. "Fair Trade" certification does not guarantee a great tasting chocolate bar. Superior quality chocolate bars certified as 'Fair Trade' are scarce.
Farmers are motivated to create great tasting flavour cocoa beans of the Criollo and Trinitario varieties when their crops are purchased at prices well above 'Fair Trade'. Their prices are much higher because great tasting varieties of cocoa are difficult to grow, susceptible to disease, produce low yields and are highly sought after by quality chocolatiers.
Coppeneur purchases cocoa beans directly from the farmer ("Direct Trade"). This close relationship ensures Coppeneur visits the plantations, allowing for inspection of the beans, cultivation methods, fermentation/drying techniques and the working conditions of the employees. Seeing the success of their neighbours' plantation, nearby cocoa farmers are motivated to improve the quality of their plantation and reinvest earnings.
Ethically grown cocoa that maintains the ecological balance of the plantation benifits the cocoa farmer, the environement and the consumer.
Coppeneur was a recent sponsor of the 2010 "Global Cocoa Project" fundrasier in Brooklynn, New York. We donated organic couverture from the family owned Hacienda Iara plantation in Ecuador. Money raised went to support cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coas