Follow the money
Chocolate is big business.
Very big business.
And especially at this time of year as Lent comes to an end and the shops are full of chocolate eggs, rabbits, chickens and even chocolate chip hot cross buns, we love to buy chocolate, give and share it. Chocolate is the food of love and the language of friendship.
So the farmers and workers who grow this luxurious, delicious treat must be doing all right? After all, when a 200g chocolate Easter Egg costs anywhere from £4 to £12 there's no excuse for everyone along the supply chain not to be getting their share of that, right?
Well, cocoa farmers' incomes are dependent on the prices they can negotiate for their crop. The Ghana Cocoa Board decides in early October every year the minimum price a farmer gets for her cocoa, which equates to around £1 for every 1kg of cocoa beans. So let's look at the cost of a 200g chocolate egg - 5 eggs makes 1kg of chocolate, which means even at the cheapest end we are paying around £20 for 1kg of chocolate. Around half of the volume of a high quality milk chocolate egg (40-50% cocoa solids) is the cocoa, so even if you account for that, the farmers are receiving around 10% of the value their cocoa provides.
So what can we do? Well, paying a little bit more for Fairtrade chocolate is a good start. The Fairtrade minimum price is always more than the government minimum and buyers pay a premium equivalent to around 10% of the price which has to be used for community projects, chosen democratically by the farmers themselves.
But it's clear that while only 1% of the cocoa grown in Ghana is processed there, most of the value leaves the country in 64kg bags, headed for Europe where it will be processed into chocolate. Cocoa beans are Ghana's biggest export, but chocolate is one of its smallest. Cocoa has been farmed in exactly the same way since 1879 when Tetteh Quarshie grew the first cocoa trees in Ghana. You can hear all about the history of Cocoa in Ghana by watching the video of our How Ghana Got Its Cocoa webinar with Dr Leonard Opoku Agyemang
But what if the farmers themselves were able to do more of the processes required to create chocolate? It's been accepted wisdom for over a century that cocoa farmers' job is to do the first few processes - growing, harvesting, scooping, fermenting and drying the beans, then weighing the dried beans into 64kg sacks and sending the precious crop on its way, for others to add in all the value.
But around 40 minutes drive North West of Kumasi there's a groundbreaking project from Nana Nyanteng Ahenkan at his Shahamana Farms complex. Nana has discovered that if cocoa farmers undertake just a few more processes on the farm - roasting, winnowing and nibbing - this doubles the value of the crop. Cocoa nibs are the raw material for all chocolate but companies are used to doing these processes themselves in Europe. We need to convince farmers that this is something they can do, as well as convincing chocolate companies to get used to buying cocoa nibs from Ghana rather than just the cocoa beans. Not only will this bring more income to cocoa farmers and their families. there is a pressing environmental reason to do this. Transporting sacks of cocoa beans to Europe only to immediately discard half of the weight through the winnowing process makes the shipping unnecessarily carbon intensive. Not to mention that there are no uses for the discarded cocoa husks in Europe so they are burned or go to landfill. Cocoa communities use them to make cocoa tea, which is both delicious and nutritious.
Chocolate Has A Name is partnering with Kabi - one of a growing number of artisan chocolate makers in Ghana - who will train the teachers at Tarkwa Breman to deliver chocolate making workshops.
There are also increasing numbers of cocoa processing centres mainly at Tema just outside Accra, which can make cocoa butter and cocoa solids on the kind of industrial scale the chocolate makers need, and FairAfric's state of the art chocolate factory at Suhum is set within a cocoa growing area - you can see the whole process from cultivator to consumer in one place. It's a growing industry, and the old colonial ideas about who does what are slowly being eroded.
We are at an exciting point in the story of cocoa in Ghana - looking forward to a better future where Ghanaian cocoa farmers and their children understand chocolate, make chocolate and sell chocolate to the world, keeping the value for themselves and growing the economy one Easter Egg at a time. So this Easter when you break into your chocolate egg remember the farmers and workers who helped it get there and remember that chocolate has a name.