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Reconsidering where your candy bar came from

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 business commentator

Dallas, TX – Chocolate: "a food prepared from ground roasted cocoa beans." Sweetened, and eaten throughout the year, and especially popular on Valentine's Day. You might want to reflect this year on where you get your chocolate. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Midday.

In the past five months, the western African nation of Ivory Coast has lost one-third of this year's cocoa crop. This is not due to Mother Nature. Once considered the model economy for the country, Ivory Coast is being torn apart by civil war, and their economic structure is falling. Though the ramifications are most clearly felt in its own country, it is important to realize 40% of the world's cocoa crop is produced in Ivory Coast. Last September, after a failed coup, the price of cocoa on the commodity exchange hit a 17-year high. Shortly after that, most chocolate makers raised their prices anywhere from 3% to as high as Nestl 's 10%. March cocoa futures are hovering around $2,300 per ton. According to Business Week, that's 3 times the price since December of 2000. And there is no trickle down here. Because of the scarcity, farmers do not benefit from any price increase.

In reality, farmers of developing countries rarely, if ever, benefit from higher prices. Most profits are made at the corporate level. Except in Ghana. Cocoa growers pulled recourses to set up a cooperative that would trade its own cocoa. This way, growers could get a better price on the market that would help improve their lives. What began in 1993 with a few farmers now has over 40,000 cocoa farmers. This is the story of Devine, a fair trade, milk chocolate bar made by the Day Company and distributed by SERRV, with two R's and no E. SERRV is a non-profit organization promoting social and economic progress for people of developing countries. The cocoa farmers make up one-third of the Day Company Board. And this revolutionary, just way of marketing a chocolate bar expects to show a profit in two years. For KERA Marketplace Midday, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 p.m. To contact Maxine Shapiro, please send emails to