A chocolate buyer with Elland-based Suma Wholefoods was invited to Ghana to learn about a farmers’ co-operative.
Jenny Carlyle saw efforts being made to improve the lives of its members working under the banner Kuapa Kokoo which means Good Coca Farming.
She travelled to Amankwaita village near Kumasi as a guest of Divine Chocolate which is 45 per cent owned by the co-operative.
“Coming from Suma, a workers’ co-operative with 128 members, I was astonished to learn that Kuapa manage a co-op of 65,000 members,” she said.
Ghanaian cocoa is not grown in large plantations but in numerous smallholdings, with each farmer producing up to 20 65kg sacks a year.
The farmers showed Jenny the growing process from harvesting through to fermentation and drying and a warehouse where the beans are quality checked, stored and transported.
“The trip has been the highlight of my career,” she said.
“A visit to Ghana was my chance to find out about how Fairtrade really affects the farmers. Suma and Divine cholcoate work with each other finding common ground in supporting Fairtrade and co-operative working.
“Most Fairtrade products will guarantee the farmers a Fairtrade price and will pay a Fairtrade premium back to the farmers for their produce.
“Divine chocolate goes further – as Kuapa are the majority shareholder in Divine, it means they get a share of the profits on the sale of Divine chocolate.
“Divine also provide funds to support the administration of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which is vital in ensuring that farmers get their voices heard.
“For me this trip clarified the worth of Fairtrade for the farmers.
“Fairtrade is about helping farmers help themselves through trade, not aid - and Kuapa Kokoo with Divine chocolate are doing this remarkably well.”
Meanwhile customers and businesses with an interest in Fairtrade products were treated to a three course meal in the Suma canteen during Fairtrade Fortnight, which ends on Sunday.
Co-op members Emma Robinson and Rebecca Kinnard served up an African-themed meal using various Fairtrade products.
Those present heard about Jenny’s trip to Ghana and sampled Design Chocolate.
“It went really well. We had a full canteen,” said Emma.
Support for Fairtrade is booming. Last year in the UK sales of Fairtrade products reached £1.32 billion - up 12 per cent on the previous year.
Fairtrade products are now sold in 120 countries and 75 per cent of all Fairtrade producers are smallholder farmers.
One of every three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade.
Fairtrade accounts for 10 per cent of all tea sold in the UK.
9,924 tonnes of Fairtrade hot chocolate was drunk in the UK in 2011 - that equates to about 1.5 million people sitting down to a cup of hot chocolate every day.