October 22, 2007

Civil Justice Marches On (Its Stomach)

Chocolate in Canada has a unique position.

We are apparently the only nation in the world where Nestle, M&M Mars/Effem Foods, Cadbury and Hershey are all in direct competition with each other; chocolate makes up almost 70% off all candy shipments (as of 2001, at least) in Canada; and we buy over 6.5 kilos per year. Go figure that's about 15 pounds each, and I'm not in the least surprised. I'm pretty sure my personal consumption makes up for the few of us who don't eat any at all - I am very much a chocolate hound (it goes well with the whisky), and odds are always 50-50 whether I bring some home when I go out for whatever reason.

After all, it's available everywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, cafes, corner stores, even some book stores carry the stuff! So I've got opportunities galore to bite down, and if you added it all up, I'm pretty sure I can rival some smokers out there for cash spend/addiction.

But I'm going to be spending more.

The reason for that is basic math: a simple bar of Hershey's chocolate costs about a buck for 55 grams worth, or just over eight dollars a pound. La Siembra Fair Trade chocolate runs around four dollars for 100 grams, or just under sixteen dollars per pound.

So it just makes good fiscal sense.

Oh, wait! I forgot one part of the equation: most chocolate comes with an additional $30 child slave cost. For me, that changes the numbers a bit.

Cocoa is, like oil, a fungible commodity: the cost depends on the total stock, not just the stock in one area, and purchasers buy from wherever it is available before selling it to chocolate manufacturers. Industries actively encourage a higher number of plantations, increasing the amount available; this increases competition among growers, many of whom simply purchase children to work their plantations, increasing their ability to undercut competition by reducing labour costs.

While it's nice to see Nestle and M&M Mars/Effrem putting "Nut Free" labels on some of their candy, it would be nice if the labels read "Slavery Free", too.

Which brings the number of regular "Fair Trade" purchases in our house to a grand total of... three. Coffee, sugar, and now chocolate are foods that we use regularly enough that the new cost is actually cutting down on our consumption of them. Which, I suppose, could be another benifit.

*Side Note: anyone who is stupid enough to argue that slave owners in America wanted to keep their "property" healthy is invited to go to Cote d'Ivoire and see how slaves are actually treated.*

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posted by Thursday at 7:10 pm


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