The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off

The pictures of happy African farmers on the FAIRTRADE chocolate bought by consumers in the West are designed to make the consumer believe that the broad smiles are a result of actual fair trade: support and a better income. But this impression is false. Exploitation in the West African cocoa industry continues, only with a new player on the block: FAIRTRADE itself, which benefits from the extra mark-up paid by supportive consumers. The FAIRTRADE label (issued by FAIRTRADE’s own certifying sister company Flo-Cert), hailed 20 years ago as an innovative institution which would improve the lives of farmers in the cocoa industry in West Africa, has not lived up to its promises.

During a periode of six months journalists from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Netherlands investigated the alleged benefits received by cocoa farmers in West Africa via the FAIRTRADE label.

Their conclusions: whilst the chocolate consumer in the West pays a significant mark-up for ‘honest’ chocolate, these benefits amount to little or no improvement in the lives of cocoa farmers. In some case, because of FAIRTRADE cooperatives’ increasing dominance, farmers were even worse off than before.

The full dossier is titled ‘The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off’. The project was led by the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) and was partly funded by the Programme for African Investigative Reporting (PAIR).

By Selay Kouassi (Ivory Coast), Chief Bisong Etahoben (Cameroon), Benjamin Tetteh (Ghana), Aniefiok Udonquak (Nigeria), Bjinse Dankert and Janneke Donkerlo (Netherlands), Charles Rukuni (team leader), Evelyn Groenink (editor).

November 14, 2012.

Download a copy of the complete Transnational Investigation (pdf): The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off.