If yesterday someone asked me for a good go-to group for chocolate knowledge, I would have thought cocoa bean growers was a solid response. After all, they understand the intricacies of growing, harvesting and preparing the beans for their ultimate chocolate destiny. But according to this viral video, some of the very people who make our dessert addiction possibly have never even tasted chocolate. In fact, the farmers here didn’t even know what Westerners made with the fruits of their labor. (Wine was one guess we wish were true.)
From Colonialism to the Free Market
It turns out that in the Ivory Coast—the small West African country which produces more than one third of the world’s cocoa—chocolate is too rare and expensive for many in the population. A vestige of colonialism, cocoa is typically grown on family plantations that are handed down through the generations. They often turn only a marginal profit, from which the farmers have to support their families and workers.
The farmers in the clip say they just focus on getting the dried beans to their distributor, and haven’t the foggiest what happens from there. So when a reporter brings bonafide chocolate bars for the farmers to taste for the first time, they seem a bit flummoxed that this is the end product of their beans.
Naturally, though, they are delighted upon tasting it. (“It’s so sweet!”). They go on to venture some theories related to this newfound treat. One conjectures, “This must be why white people are so healthy.” Others jokingly ask the reporter, “Sir, is your skin lighter because of the chocolate?” Another posits, “We complain because growing cocoa is hard work. Now we enjoy the result. What a privilege to taste it.” Holy heart-breaking!
The Haves and Have Nots
While it’s an incredibly endearing video, the clip also demonstrates some of the inequities in the food supply industry generally, and the chocolate market specifically—and falls in line with calls for fair compensation for farmers. As the report points out, chocolate constitutes a multi-billion dollar industry in which some on the supply chain reap in the dough, and others receive a pittance.
Unfortunately, it seems highly doubtful that this reality will change any time soon. So savor your next hit of chocolate—it’s a sensation that many of its farmers will likely never experience.