Chocolate in its variety of forms is one of the sweet addictions of life that is craved by most people. Whether it is purchased for personal enjoyment or to share with others for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and other holidays and occasions, chocolate rules as the king of sweets. It’s an $80+ billion worldwide business. More than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy is sold just in the U.S. just during Valentine’s week.
Most chocolate originates in West Africa. This region produces 70 percent of the world’s cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate. The Ivory Coast produces 40 percent of West Africa’s total. Corporations purchase most of the West Africa cacao to make bars and other chocolate treats.
Growing worldwide consumption of chocolate has increased the harvest of cacao. This has created demand for more labor and caused an increase in the illegal child labor that has plagued the chocolate industry for decades.
Cacao farmers in West Africa do not have direct access to the corporations that make the end products. Instead, middlemen squeeze the price, causing farmers to struggle to survive. Desperate not to lose business, farmers often turn to illegal child labor to toil long and hazardous days in the fields. Children are trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso. They are sold to cacao farmers in the Ivory Coast. Besides the forced labor, the children do not have access to education, proper nutrition and health care. It is the cacao that is harvested by exploited children that often is included in mainstream chocolate.
One shop that will not sell chocolate harvested by illegal labor is located at the Maryknoll Society in New York’s Westchester County. The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is the foreign mission society of the U.S. Catholic Church. It serves the poor and underserved in 26 countries. Maryknoll obtains its chocolate for its gift shop through a different source that pays fair market value for cacao and forbids child labor.
The Maryknoll Gift Shop is located at the Maryknoll Mission Center (55 Ryder Road, Ossining). Besides chocolate, the shop sells clothing and other items made by the people who live in the countries served by Maryknoll. The shop also has religious gifts, books for adults and children, and Christian greeting cards. The Pope Francis Collection includes cards, prints and bookmarks. Regular shop hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and the shop also is open during special events. The shop does not have an online store and it does not ship items.
Equal Exchange Supply Chain
Maryknoll uses the Equal Exchange supply chain for its chocolate. Equal Exchange develops relationships with small farmer co-operatives in Peru, Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. These farmers are visited often by Equal Exchange, which invests in the people, the communities and the small businesses supplying the ingredients for chocolate.
Equal Exchange does not use middlemen or brokers. Producer partners receive above-market prices for crops and Fair Trade benefits. Nonprofit and independent organizations monitor the labor practices of producers. With every sweet treat of chocolate purchased at Maryknoll, Equal Exchange ensures that farmers and workers receive fair prices for their product and labor. At the same time, the partnership fosters sustainable agriculture.
So, for Halloween and other religious and secular occasions, or to just satisfy a sweet tooth, the Maryknoll Gift Shop has all-organic chocolate items for the shopping list with the guarantee that these treats are delivered by Equal Exchange. Items include mini dark chocolate bars (27-cents each or four bars for $1), 3.5-ounce bars $4.25 (including coconut, raspberries, mint, very dark), 1.58-ounce snack bars $2.00 (dark with fruit/nut or milk chocolate with peanut butter) and hot cocoa/spicy hot cocoa mix (12-ounces) and baking cocoa (eight ounces) for $8.50.