Cocoa farmers who supply the world’s confectionary companies must receive a 100% raise in order for their wages to be livable, according to Fairtrade International CEO Harriet Lamb. Her comments come at a time when child labor in the cocoa industry is on the rise, having increased 18% since 2008.
Of course, if adult workers were paid a higher wage, they would not need to have their children work, but conditions have actually worsened compared to 35 years ago. In 1980, farmers were receiving 16% of the final price of chocolate—this has dropped to 6%.
Lamb stated, “Farmers need a dramatic increase in prices, at the scale of a doubling of prices for cocoa at the farm gate alongside better access to credit…all so that farmers can have a living income.”
Companies that advocate for farmers pay and working conditions from around the world to participate in this system and are able to display Fairtrade labeling on their products. Then, consumers can make a socially conscious choice as they do their shopping.
Fairtrade has planned for a review of the prices paid to its farmers, but Lamb stated that any decision to increase the prices paid to their farmers will have to be balanced against the possibility that they could be priced out of the market. As it stands, cocoa farmers who participate in producing for the Fairtrade system only see 40% of their product being sold.
Even though farmers certified as Fairtrade are not selling all of their product, the proportion of certified cocoa present in the global chocolate market has increased from 2% to 16% in the last 6 years. This increase is in part due to a new program that allows companies to source single ingredients in their products from Fairtrade producers, rather than the entire list of ingredients.