Without even checking the actual stats, we’re 100 percent sure that about half of all the commodities available on the free market include chocolate. With such an amazing demand for the product, surely there must be a sophisticated system in place to ensure that the world never runs out of the stuff. Because if, say, the whole chocolate industry was based entirely on Third World back-breaking manual labor, slave wages and actual child slavery that would be reason enough for a worldwide panic.
Actually, the majority of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa, where the plantations are often tended to by slave children, but there is such thing as fair trade cocoa beans, with guaranteed “No slave labor!” certificates and stuff. Problem solved, right? Nope. (And it’s a little depressing when taking slavery out of the equation doesn’t immediately fix something.) The fact of the matter is that, currently, cultivating cocoa beans just isn’t worth it to the average West African farmer.
Not only is tending to cocoa trees insanely time-consuming (it takes up to five years to grow a new crop), but everything has to be done by hand in often unbearable heat. And at the end of the day, the average cocoa farmer can expect to earn about 80 cents a day for his trouble. That satisfying feeling that his product is contributing to America’s obesity epidemic is just not enough anymore, so in fewer than 20 years, chocolate might become an expensive rarity, like caviar. When was the last time you had caviar?
Cocoa beans can be produced outside West Africa, but only within 10 degrees of the equator, an area that you might quickly recognize as including some of the most politically unstable regions on the planet. It would explain why chocolate prices have doubled in the last six years and will only continue to go up.
The only way to keep chocolate dirt-cheap is to remove cocoa butter from it (which, to us, is completely defeating the purpose), just like Hershey did a few years back. Now the FDA is telling Hershey that it can’t even call those products “chocolate.”