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Fancy some DDT with your chocolate?
February 1, 2006
2:14 am
oz_choc
Kandos, Australia
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In January 2005, alex_h asked:
Does fumigation of shipped beans effect their being labeled organic? And isn’t high-end chocolate pretty much organic anyway?

This is a rather late response to the question, but seeing as it was never answered at the time, I’d like to chip in my 2 cents’ worth …

Does fumigation of shipped beans effect their being labeled organic?

The short answer is yes, standard fumigation will void organic certification.

We recently had a container load of beans land in Sydney, which had to be treated for insect infestation (the treatment was ordered by an entomologist who mistakenly believed that the dried and fermented beans were still in their pods. He later admitted to never having seen a cocoa bean – or pod – before).

The standard chemical used to fumigate cocoa for quarantine purposes is methyl bromide. This is a highly toxic gas. It’s also a Class 1 ozone-depleting substance, which means its use has been banned in most places, for most purposes other than quarantine. My understanding is that methyl bromide is considered safe for use on food products because it dissipates into the atmosphere very rapidly. The use of methyl bromide is not accepted by organic certification bodies, and, if used, it will invalidate a product’s organic certification status.

After digging our heels in, we were allowed to use cold treatment instead of fumigation (this meant the beans were stored in sub zero temperatures for 8 days). The cold treatment was more expensive, took longer, and involved a lot more bureaucratic hassle than fumigation.

And isn’t high-end chocolate pretty much organic anyway?

To some extent, this may depend on your definition of high-end chocolate (for example, I’m aware that Valrhona claims to have its “own plantations”, which would presumably give them an unusually high level of control over the growing … but then again, most Valrhona chocolate doesn’t claim to be organic). One thing that worries me about cocoa is the fact that it is mostly grown by poor, often uneducated people, in areas where malaria tends to be endemic. DDT (the insecticide famous for its ability to persist in the envrionment, and bio-accumulate) was widely banned from use in the western world in the 1970s. However, DDT remains a popular and highly effective form of mosquito control in Third World countries where malaria is endemic. I am not aware of any country that still technically “allows” DDT to be used in agriculture, but I have heard and read enough to make me believe that cocoa might not be as free from nasty chemicals like DDT as you’d hope (I’ve added my own italics to the scariest bits, below):

A UNDP POP (Persistent Organic Pollutant) Resource Kit says:
“it is often the poor rural settlements that are more prone to illnesses like malaria, increasing the exposure of these populations to malaria controls like DDT. The continuing legal and illegal use of POP pesticides among the rural poor, especially in agriculture, further increases their exposure to and health risk from such POPs”
http://www.undp.org/gef/05/doc…..ce_kit.pdf

More alarming for us as consumers is this excerpt from an article about Kuapa Kokoo, the Fairtrade cocoa co-op in Ghana (which supplies cocoa to The Day Chocolate Company, the makers of Divine):
‘When Kuapa came, everything was all right. They give us DDT pesticides to spray on our crops and orange T-shirts to show we are members of Kuapa.’
Read the whole article at: http://observer.guardian.co.uk…..18,00.html

Personally, I think I’ll be sticking with certified organic!

Sam

February 1, 2006
3:03 am
oz_choc
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Hi, me again.

I’m very much aware that I seem to be the bearer of bad news on this forum. So, I thought I’d offer a positive suggestion regarding DDT and malaria in cocoa growing countries.

An excellent alternative to DDT for malaria prevention is mosquito netting – but unfortunately nets are considerably more expensive than DDT. However, there are any number of charities out there that provide mosquito nets to vulnerable communities … so, if you feel like making a practical difference, perhaps you could consider making a donation … and take the world one step closer to being free of DDT.

Sam :-)

February 1, 2006
3:30 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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Unfortunately, the havoc that diseases (especially malaria) create is much more difficult to eliminate by simply providing nets. First of all, you have to realize that malaria is a disease that people are exposed to every day of their lives, every day of the year (!!!), and mere nets are not going to reduce these incidences by significant amounts. For example, how are you going to protect a farmer from mosquitos while working in a field or rain forest? To our Westernized minds, medication and drugs might spring to mind, but unfortunately, these countries are poor and cannot afford such luxuries. There are so many facotrs that need to be explored in such scenarios, such as: understanding the country’s economy, social organization, folk beliefs, esepcially folk medical beliefs regarding protection of malaria. The latter is crucial because if a disease plays such a huge role in a society’s everyday life, then there most definitely will exist folk beliefs about it. Then, you need to analyze the distribution of the disease and what sociobiological conditions that caused it. Additionally, you need to understand the differences between temperate malaria and the malaria that persists in Africa. In other words, you just can’t go in with nets and say, “Here, protect yourself from malaria.” Chances are good that you’d be turned down as fast as one of us would reject a Hershey’s bar.

But the trouble here is finding the funding to support such an endeavor and more importantly the TIME. Most organizations just want to go in and rub out the problem as quickly as possible. To the dismay of many a epidemiologist, however, this is not possible.

February 1, 2006
3:37 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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Any chemical you add to a crop, before or after harvest, will automatically strip it from any organic labeling it may have had in the past. The whole point is to avoid chemicals, right? So why would you want to go and add harmful chemicals when you’re “almost done?” That’s not organic.

February 2, 2006
10:11 pm
oz_choc
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I caught malaria last August. As a result, I ended up in hospital with dehydration from vomiting for three days, by which time I was also pissing blood. I certainly don’t need to be told that malaria is a serious problem.

But, as a result of having caught the disease myself, and being a passionate opponent of DDT, I did a lot of research on the topic. I think you’ll find that mosquito nets are a much more effective solution than you realise. For starters, the Anopheles mosquitos that carry malaria are active at night time – meaning they simply don’t come out and attack farmers in the fields during the day (if they did, then the conventional program of spraying DDT on the walls of houses wouldn’t be very useful).

One of the groups most vulnerable to dying from malaria are babies and young children, who tend to go to bed early. As a result, mosquito nets have been proven to be extremely effective in protecting babies and young children from malaria.

Also, nets are a superb way to prevent symptomatic people from being bitten by the breeding female (breeding females are the only Anopheles that feed on blood, and therefore transmit malaria). Interestingly, research has indicated that people with malaria symptoms are more attractive to mosquitos than people without. Obviously, if you can prevent a symptomatic person from being bitten, you also prevent that person’s malaria being transmitted to someone else. And, because the moquito’s range is small, strictly isolating symptomatic people can be very effective in eliminating malaria from entire communities.

I would NEVER use DDT in my house, and I don’t know any educated person in the First World who would allow DDT to be sprayed regularly, over the course of an entire lifetime, on their children’s bedroom walls. So, if DDT’s not good enough for us, why should we consider it good enough for them? I believe that complacently accepting the “necessity” of DDT is to conveniently avoid searching for a better alternative that won’t wreak havoc on humans and the environment for generations to come.

Sam

February 2, 2006
10:20 pm
seneca
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It should be pointed out that cacao’s pollinating midges are quite chemically sensitive, and live predominantly in the leaf litter surrounding the tree’s base. Using DDT or any other common pesticide anywhere near flowering cacao will decrease its liklihood of pollination hugely. It’s much more common to see the use of chemicals like Roundup (glyphosphate) around cacao plantations for weed control than it is to find them used directly on or near the tree. As far as controls applied directly to the fruit, there are some experiments with parasitic fungi to kill frosty pod and witches’ broom, but these are biological controls and might even technically fall under the organic umbrella (depending on the certifying body…)

I’m not suggesting that organic farming isn’t an important issue or goal…just that it’s rare to find pesticide use as close to the fruiting cycle as you might think. Of course, what happens to the dried fermented seeds will vary from country to country, although I can’t think of any reason why cacao would ever pose a danger at that stage–with a water content of below 10% it’s hardly a friendly environment for pests…

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
February 2, 2006
10:42 pm
oz_choc
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Montegrano asks:
Any chemical you add to a crop, before or after harvest, will automatically strip it from any organic labeling it may have had in the past. The whole point is to avoid chemicals, right? So why would you want to go and add harmful chemicals when you’re “almost done?”

If you started out with “organic labelling” on your beans, the obvious answer to the second question is that you wouldn’t want to add harmful chemicals “when you’re almost done”. However, the point of my original post was to highlight the fact that most cocoa beans and chocolate aren’t labelled organic to begin with. Therefore, it’s not safe to assume (as alex_h seemed to) that high-end chocolate is “pretty much organic anyway”.

It may interest you to know that, from what I can gather, in the USA “only methyl bromide is used” for the de-infestation of cocoa, and, furthermore, “routine refumigation is done immediately before shipment to chocolate manufacturers”.
http://mbao.org/2005/05Proceed…..200908.pdf

So, to go back to Montegrano’s question – there seem to be three fairly compelling reasons as to why you’d want to add harmful chemicals at the end of the line: convenience, convention, and cost.

February 2, 2006
11:30 pm
oz_choc
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Seneca makes the excellent point about cacao’s pollinating midges being vulnerable to insecticides, and that you’re unlikely to see common insecticides being used “anywhere near flowering cacao”.

Remeber, though, that cacao isn’t always flowering.

According to a cocoa research scientist from CIRAD whom I’ve spoken to, insect pests cause more cocoa losses annually than disease. The figure he quoted was 705,000 tonnes lost to insect damage each year (yes, that’s 25% of the annual harvest).

According to CIRAD, insect pests of cocoa that are conventionally treated with insecticides include: a variety of capsids, mirids, and thrips, leaf-cutter ant, scarab beetles, meallybugs (which carry swollen shoot virus), and cocoa pod borer.

However, even if DDT never, ever made it onto or near a cocoa tree, I am still very concerned with damage to human health and general biodiversity in cocoa growing areas where DDT is used.

I don’t know about any of you, but I feel a debt of gratitude and personal responsibility towards the people who grow cocoa all around the equator. Without them, we wouldn’t have chocolate.

As Montegrano points out: “these countries are poor and cannot afford such luxuries [as malaria medication]“.

I have to say, I didn’t consider my AUD$2.40 dose of chloroquine (to treat my malaria) an “expensive luxury”. So let’s ask instead – Why are these cocoa growing countries so poor?? One reason is because they are shamelessly exploited by cocoa buyers.

For example, while Fair Trade certification gurantees a grower world price plus US$150 per tonne for their cocoa (that’s approximately 110% of world price), the average cocoa grower in Ghana only receives 52% of the world price (and I would suggest that that’s an optimistic estimate, published by ICCO).

Now, I can think of many other reasons why cocoa growing countries are poor, too (including civil war, corruption, and sundry natural disasters). But the point is, we as consumers have the power to change the amount of money that growers receive for cocoa.

Sam

February 3, 2006
3:09 am
seneca
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Good points, Sam, and yet more reasons to spread the gospel on eating (and thus supporting) more premium chocolates and less mass-market product. The average Ghana grower may indeed receive only 50% or so of average price, but I guarantee the growers supplying folks like Scharffen Berger, Valrhona and others are being paid substantially higher rates than the global average, and are often protected with multi-year contracts and other incentives.

Even without fair trade certification (which is great, but not achievable for all or even most cacao growers), consumers can find an increased comfort level by buying products that naturally support that top 10% or so of the cacao producing marketplace.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
February 3, 2006
4:05 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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Well, $2.40 for you may not be a high fee, but for someone who earns $50 annually, it’s an entirely different story. Say you earn $45,000 annually; that’s the equivalent of a $2,160 treatment, and in countries where daily survival (i.e. the more immediate future) is more important than long-term survival, you’re not going to do a whole to affect a better future because in reality they either 1) don’t think that far ahead; 2) are fatalist; and/or 3) are just trying to get enough food for themselves and their families, so as a result their long-term survival is very unimportant (in the grand scope). Like I said, the economic and political situations over there are part of the reason here. You also have to digress a little and examine the events that led to the state we’re/they’re in now. Cacao never grew naturally in Africa to begin with, and a large reason that some regions’ populations are so high can be explained largely by cash crops such as cacao. For example, America would never have had such a huge African American population had it not been for rice, cotton, and other cash crops. It’s obvious, however, that these crops have been selected for in these locales, but when you throw humans into the equation, the whole scenario becomes skewed because our intellect and the resulting actions affect a whole new outcome and scenario had it been left untouched from the outset.

From an evolutionary standpoint, malaria is not so bad, but of course, when it affects the human condition to such magnitude it is indeed a tragedy. But you also have to remember that approximately 25% of an affected population will die from malaria. These people will either be babies while the remaining will be children of age 4-6, so in these regards, the life of an infected individual is mercifully cut short instead of prolonged for decades of misery. Older people can still contract malaria, of course, but then this leads me to my next point. Selection has obviously favored a very young death so that these individuals don’t become a burden to the rest of society. Furthermore, the remaining population who goes on and lives is also heterozygous for sickle cell anemia, which is another deadly condition if contracted in its homozygous form. Basically, by possessing one allele for sickle cell, said individual is immune to malaria, and this condition has evolved over time in regions where malaria runs rampant. Now, it is indeed miserable for a Westerner to contract malaria because he/she was not raised in such conditions and so the chances that he/she contains a sickle cell allele are very low. As a result, that person will be highly prone to malaria and could possibly die simply because his/her body was raised in a different environment. (This is also true for cystic fibrosis & typhoid fever, and other conditions….)

My point is that this is nature’s way of weeding out the population, i.e. the strongest survive. This is a way for an organic creature to enhance his/her own reproductive success and to avoid allocating too many resources to a lost cause. Western society is odd because we work against this grain and try to play God in all spheres of existence. As a result, we have affected even more problems onto ourselves and the cycle keeps getting larger and encompassing more tragedies.

February 4, 2006
2:04 am
oz_choc
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Seneca wrote: I guarantee the growers supplying folks like Scharffen Berger, Valrhona and others are being paid substantially higher rates than the global average, and are often protected with multi-year contracts and other incentives.

You can “guarantee” this? Great! How?

(Please don’t forget to define who you mean by “others”, as well as what constitutes “substantially higher rates than the global average”!)

As a cocoa buyer, I am extremely interested in developing ways to “guarantee” or “prove” the claims that I make about being ethical. It’s not an easy thing to do. And I hope you won’t be insulted when I tell you that I won’t accept your personal guarantee as evidence, seeing as I don’t know you from a bar of soap.

I have to admit to being extremely cynical on the subject of guarantees regarding business ethics, having been thoroughly duped by one high-end chocolate manufacturer in Ecuador whose series of personal gurantees turned out to be (at best) fantasies.

Sam

February 4, 2006
2:08 am
oz_choc
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Montegrano – Yesterday, you were criticising Western interference (in the form of mosquito nets). Today, you’re defending Western interference (which is what every cocoa plantation in Africa amounts to), while dispassionately abandoning to the forces of “natural selection” all the children who die as a direct result of said interference.

(If you’d like to enter into an off-topic anthropological debate about how radically cash cropping has transformed community structures and people’s exposure to malaria, I’m more than happy to continue off-forum.)

As for your attempt to demonstrate that 4.8% of a person’s annual income is too large an amount to spend on saving a child’s life … you must be kidding.
To use your example – if I earned $45,000 per annum, would I spend $2,160 to save my child’s life? In a heartbeat. As would every parent I know.

Sam

February 4, 2006
5:29 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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In the first instance, I wasn’t criticizing, but rather pointing out problems. And in the second, I’m wasn’t defending, but rather criticizing. So you have it backwards.

In Western minds, yes, parents might pay that amount to save their child’s life, but we’re not dealing with Western minds and cognitive perspectives. To be specific, a situation similar to this has occurred in Mexico where workers refuse to wear protective clothing when spraying fields with chemicals. A study into their cultural beliefs revealed that their outlook on life and thought processes were a major culprit of their suffering, i.e. they were fatalist and value the idea of “machismo.”

February 5, 2006
12:25 am
oz_choc
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Montegrano – your example about Mexican workers is a perfect illustration of the problem I was highlighting in my original post. Namely, that people (especially uneducated people) have a tendency to misuse dangerous chemicals.

This takes me back to my original argument: that purchasing certified organic chocolate is the best way to avoid the chemicals irresponsibly applied to cocoa by a demographic of “fatalists” who have ready access to DDT, and no education.

The really nice bonus is that, by supporting certified organic agriculture, you also save the “machismo”-bound growers from exposing themselves to these chemicals!

Sam

February 5, 2006
12:47 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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They’re not misusing dangerous chemicals but are using them without proper protection. They’re supposed to wear suits and masks, but instead they forgo this gear and opt for regular clothing. The use of chemicals in the Mexican scenario was applied to a much larger scale of agriculture, one that needed these chemicals in order to be productive. Otherwise, the crops would fail and then the people would be out of work altogether. Sure, they could use friendlier chemicals, but we’re talking about third-world countries that are struggling in all spheres of existence, especially financial. And they simply can’t afford anything else or afford to even experiment because their livelihood rests on the success of methods that have proven in the past to be highly profitable. How can you convince people to go against that? Furthermore, these countries are often victims of political turmoil and social injustice, and as a result, the people simply want to assume a peaceful life and make some money to support themselves and their families. To many of these people, health is not affected by chemicals, or even by viruses or insects, but usually “the wind” brings disease or even “the water is dangerous.” Education is important here and this won’t happen without outside help. We take advantage of our conditions and sometimes fail to realize that we live a very cushioned life.

Besides, I understand the point here. We should purchase chocolate grown organically. Not only does this afford the growers higher revenue but also it sends a message to them and the market that there is a demand for such a thing. After all, the market can only supply if there is a demand.

February 5, 2006
2:08 am
seneca
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Fair enough that you don’t know me from Adam, but you can guarantee it for yourself by simply asking the buyers from SB, Valrhona, Marcolini, Amedei or any number of other premium producers. You certainly don’t have to take my word for it, but from talking to them myself I’m very confident that it’s true.

The best cacao comes at a price that is minimally three to four times the global commodity rate–in the range of $8-9/kilo versus $3.5/kilo at the bottom end (for fermented and dried raw cacao). I’d say that makes a pretty healthy difference for the supplier. Add to that the competitiveness of the marketplace for the best cacao and the growers certainly are doing better.

Once again, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t problems with social or environmental equity in the cacao growing world–far from it. But for those growers that work within the premium market it’s certainly a better world.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
February 5, 2006
11:44 pm
oz_choc
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guarantee n. 1. a formal promise that a thing is of specified quality, with penalties for failure.

Seneca, you offered me a “guarantee” that you obviously couldn’t deliver on.

This leads me to wonder – if you’re prepared to be casual with the meanings of words on behalf of a group of businesses … imagine what the businesses themselves might be prepared to say in order to look good in the eyes of their customers. Afterall, I’ve never, ever, heard anyone in any cocoa-related business admit to benefiting from child labour – so does that mean that child labour doesn’t exist?

As for your advice to obtain the information myself, well, I’ve been trying. To refer back to the two examples originally used by you:

1. Scharffenberger’s website makes no mention that I can find in relation to the price they pay to growers. Usually, if a company pays “three to four times the global commodity rate” for their inputs, they mention their fair trading status (or similar) to their customers, because it’s a clear point of differentiation between themselves and their competitors. In any case, I have written to Scharffenberger asking for more information on this subject, but as yet my correspondence has not been answered.

(By the way, remember that paying a grower of Criollo beans three to four times the commodity price of Forastero beans doesn’t necessarily leave the grower any better off, given that the more delicate Criollo trees may only produce a quarter of the yield of hardier Forastero trees).

2. On Valrhona’s website, I read that it has “its own plantations”, which leads me to wonder why they would pay “three to four times” the market price for a commodity that they already own?

3. Remember, also, that the price a chocolate manufacturer pays for beans is very rarely the price the grower receives. There is usually at least one middle man involved. For example, in Ecuador, I was “guaranteed” that the growers received a generous bonus from the chocolate maker. When I went to visit the growers, they were upset. Investigation revealed that the chocolate maker’s buyer had been pocketing the bonus himself.

To use another example, a feature article about the Malagasy project in The Observer ( http://observer.guardian.co.uk…..88,00.html ) revealed that the 650 cocoa growers (who supply fresh, unfermented beans for that project) receive only one-third of the price for their beans that the 23 “preparateurs” are paid by Ramex, the buyer who, from what I can gather, supplies the Malagasy project. (Even taking into account weight losses through fermentation and drying, preparateurs – who ferment and dry the beans – are said to earn “twice as much as the average cocoa farmer”).

The justification given for taking basic value-adding work (i.e. fermentation and drying) away from these growers, is that the growers will benefit in the long run from the export income. The problem is that there seems to be very little export happening. According to this article, they produce 150 tons of chocolate for the domestic market, and only 4000 bars for export. If my calculation is right, 4000 bars at 85g per bar equals 340 kilograms of chocolate for export (which seems consistent with the Malagasy bars being “out of stock” every time I look at the seventypercent shop). If only 0.2% of the product being manufactured is being exported … well, that doesn’t exactly sound like a trickle-down export bonanza for the cocoa growers to me. It sounds more like a domestic re-distribution of wealth away from the many, into the hands of the few.

Financial (and related) improvements to cocoa growers lives do not simply happen by accident. My experience tells me that any chocolate manufacturer who can’t (or won’t) provide details on real steps that they have actively taken to become part of the solution, is more than likely part of the problem. The thing that intrigues me is that not many chocolate makers actually publicly claim to benefit the growers – so why are people like you, Senece, so keen to make these claims on their behalf?

February 6, 2006
2:10 am
seneca
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There’s no earthly reason why a chocolate producer is going to announce on its website what it’s paying for cacao, where it’s sourcing it, or any other meaningful non-marketing information. Go talk to the folks who really make these decisions–they buyers and their brokers. I have, and you should too–you just might learn something.

It really makes no difference whatsoever to me whether you want to believe me or not. You’re entitled to your opinion, and if you’re not interested in expanding your pool of information, that’s going to have to be up to you.

Incidentally, Valrhona, Domori, Amedei and some others do own some of their own growing resources, but not nearly in sufficient quantities to support all their consumption. And there is not always a middleman in other contexts–see the Chuao and Conocado cooperatives for examples.

If this is a real area of concern, I would suggest that you spend some time working with the fair trade certifying bodies (such as Transfair) and help them lower the cost and improve the availability of their services. That’s something that might actually help.

And remember: the mass market chocolate producers are the ones buying around 90% of the global cacao crop. In my opinion, you should be more worried about what they’re paying and how they’re treating the growers…

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
February 8, 2006
2:12 am
oz_choc
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Seneca wrote: There’s no earthly reason why a chocolate producer is going to announce on its website what it’s paying for cacao, where it’s sourcing it, or any other meaningful non-marketing information.

I disagree with your belief that chocolate companies don’t try to obtain marketing leverage from the source of their beans – unfortunately, their source information is simply critically low on detail. For example, looking at their websites, I see that the companies you mention variously claim to source their beans from “the best origins throughout the world” and “the best plantations”. Verily, it seems that everybody buys the best beans from the best sources! What a coincidence! Amazingly enough, even Cadbury buys “the best quality cocoa beans”! (I assume that your advice to believe everything that companies say about themselves applies to all chocolate companies, and not just your favourites).

In any case, as a cocoa buyer and a chocolate producer myself, I can assure you that you’re mistaken in your belief (quoted above). For certain markets, price and source really is relevant information. As evidence of my assurance, I shall post the URL of my website when it’s published. In the meantime, I can tell you that the beans I currently buy are grown on the island of Malekula in Vanuatu, and I pay AUD$4.50 per kilo FOB.

The beans I buy are superb quality, certified organic, and have been better fermented and dried (and therefore have a much better flavour) than any of the revered Arriba beans I sampled in Ecuador. (Indeed, I was astonished to discover that Ecuadorean processing is notoriously so bad, with the beans being so prone to rancidity resulting from over-fermentation, that buyers actually place orders for their beans to be underfemented to a specified degree. For example, one chocolate maker I’ve spoken to – whose product is reviewed on seventypercent – orders his beans 20% unfermented).

Hey, guess what? My business didn’t spontaneously explode when I publicly revealed the price I pay for beans.

So my basic question remains: why are you (and others) so eager to paint high-end chocolate companies as organic and (lower-case) fair trade, and even go so far as to state that they pay (to use your words) “minimally three to four times the commodity rate”, when they don’t? Is it because it makes you feel good to imagine that you’re eating something environmentally friendly and socially responsible? You know, it isn’t a crime to admit that all you really care about is flavour.

For example, I received a very polite response to my email enquiry about bean price from Frankie Whitman at Scharffen Berger. She (he?) informed me that their “primary goal is to purchase the best beans available” (there’s that 4-letter b-word again!), and that they “usually pay higher than fair trade pricing”. It doesn’t take a linguistic or mathematical genius to understand that usually paying more than 1.1 times the commodity rate (i.e. Fair Trade pricing), is not nearly the same thing as paying “minimally three to four times the commodity rate”. (Please keep in mind that the “best” Criollo and Trinitario trees are much lower yielding than Forastero, so the growers of those beans have to earn more money per kilo just to be on a level playing field with growers of Forastero beans).

As for your other items of advice:

Firstly, it isn’t possible for a person to be “more worried about what the mass market chocolate producers are paying” than I already am. However, I don’t think a discussion about mass market chocolate is relevant in a forum about fine chocolate. However, I am not surprised that you (who apparently knows everything) would also presume to know what I am, and am not, worried about.

Secondly, I disagree with certain aspects of the Fair Trade certification criteria (specifically that the growers must have communication facilities, and be able to make the beans available FOB themselves – this is unachievable for the growers I work with). Hence, as I’ve already mentioned in another thread, I do not use Fair Trade certification myself, and you will notice that I usually refer to fair trade as a concept only (denoted by the lower-case f and t). This is one of the reasons why I am so interested in engaging in discussions on this topic. As I said several posts ago, it’s not easy to prove that you engage in fair trading practices, without Fair Trade certification to back your claims up.

Finally, you seem to feel that you are trying to educate me. Seeing as I’m already fully engaged in the industry, you must understand my reluctance to be further “educated” by somebody such as yourself who makes claims accompanied by either no evidence at all, or by figures that are clearly incorrect. You keep telling me that you know all about several companies’ pricing policies from talking at length to their buyers, yet when I ask you for the details, you simply tell me that I should go and find them out for myself – without once offering any of the contact information for any of these people whom you trust so profoundly. It seems to me that you’re not actually trying to help me learn anything, you are just trying to indoctrinate me. (You strike me as the dogmatic type who’ll also be determined to have the last word).

February 9, 2006
8:13 pm
oz_choc
Kandos, Australia
Member
Forum Posts: 98
Member Since:
January 10, 2006
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In my previous post I asked Seneca:
my basic question remains: why are you so eager to paint high-end chocolate companies as organic and fair trade, and even go so far as to state that they pay “minimally three to four times the commodity rate”, when they don’t?

Seneca – I’ve just been made aware that you sell this chocolate to members of the public. It’s always illuminating to learn where a person’s vested interest lies.

Sam