Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk goes Fairtrade… is this enough?

Socially aware chocaholics are cheering Cadbury’s switch to Fairtrade this week. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, which sells 300 million bars a year in the UK and Ireland, will now source its cocoa from Fairtrade farmers in Ghana, the biggest brand of its kind to make the move.

This development has the potential to introduce Fairtrade to a wider consumer audience and may have a positive impact on the lives of small-scale cocoa and sugar farmers.

However, Whilst Fairtrade guarantees farmers get a reasonable deal for their produce, the process of accreditation is a long and expensive one. Representation, knowledge and money are needed to get the Fairtrade stamp of approval and critics of the label assert that this inherently pushes many farmers out of the market. Cadbury’s Cocoa Partnership launched last year in partnership with the United National Development Programme (UNDP) is investing £45 million over 10 years in social and environmental initiatives in cocoa-growing communities. This pot of money is ensuring many Ghanaian farmers are getting the chance to become accredited suppliers of Fairtrade produce. Whilst this is a great step, it is unfortunately an unusual situation.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that agricultural productivity alone is not always able to provide a reliable livelihood for the growing populations in African countries.
Hannah Kiarie, a Nairobi based food Technologist recently made the point that agro processing - turning primary agricultural products into other commodities for market - has the potential to provide additional income generating opportunities. There are of course, some prerequisites for agro-processing to be feasible (good infrastructure, water and electricity to name but a few) and with cocoa processing, there are even more hurdles; the fact that chocolate melts is just one of them!

I will be happily munching on Dairy Milk from now on but there is still a lot to be done to ensure farmers in developing countries not only have access to lucrative markets both locally and globally but also that their businesses are sustainable financially, socially and environmentally.

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