Fairtrade is winning new friends

Clonakilty Chocolate’s Allison Roberts is a firm supporter of Fairtrade, a movement that ensures farmers and workers receive a fair price or wage. And Fairtrade is booming, writes Ray Ryan.

PEOPLE who treat themselves or their friends to a bar or two of handcrafted Clonakilty Chocolate are doing more than just tickling their taste buds and supporting a local business.

They are also helping to ensure that cocoa farmers in far away Ghana get a fair price for their raw material and are given a chance to face a better future.

That’s because the chocolate, ethically made with loving care by Allison Roberts, a Canadian who came to live in Clonakilty six years ago, is Fairtrade registered.

The Fairtrade mark means farmers and workers in plantations and factories across the developing world are fairly rewarded for their product and labour.

That message will be highlighted with a series of events across Ireland during Fairtrade Fortnight which begins today.

Visiting guests Alex Flores, a cashew nuts co-op worker in El Salvador, and Alfredo Ortego, from the Sugar Cane Farmers Association in Belize, which borders Guatemala and Mexico, will highlight the importance of Fairtrade.

They will be pleased to learn that the number of Fairtrade Towns in Ireland is set to rise to 51 with Derry and Clondalkin being added to the list.

Chocolate making became a passion with Allison Roberts when she was just 12 years of age and was later matched by her commitment to sustainability.

Both of those passions did not go unnoticed when she came to live in Clonakilty, which was Ireland’s first Fairtrade town in 2003. Jennifer Sleeman got her involved in the local committee, now headed by Trevor Kingston, chairman.

Allison now produces 14 flavours of Clonakilty Chocolate which she sells in local shops including her own, and at the local weekly Friday market. They are also available at the English Market in Cork “Most of my bars contain at least 70% Cacao and the end products are healthier and, I think, more delicious.”

Last year, Allison was lured into the world of raw chocolate and sugar-free chocolate making with the result that these bars have quickly become best-sellers and are her own favourites.

“So with two milk bars, two white bars, seven bars made from 70% dark chocolate and three bars that are 80% raw and sugar free I’m delighted with my range of handcrafted bars,” she said.

Clonakilty was selected as the best Fairtrade Town in Ireland last year and as a result, Allison, the treasurer, and Cindy Kingston, secretary, spent ten days in Ghana.

“It was amazing to meet with the cocoa farmers and see where my chocolate originated,” she said, describing the visit as inspiring. In Ghana she also realised how great a role small businesses can play in helping these farmers. “I’m determined to push and stretch my comfort zone and horizons and explore possibilities,” she said.

Allison said she particularly hopes to create more direct links with Kuapa Kokoo, the co-op that represents almost 50,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana.

The farmers say a lot of progress has been made through Fairtrade and Kuapa. The co-op pays them on time and there is no cheating when the cocoa is weighted.

Fairtrade Ireland reported that sales for 2012 were up by 9% from €159m to €174m, mainly in the chocolate and banana food categories. Figures for 2013 are not yet available, but the growth is likely to have continued with an announcement by Nestlé’s that Kit Kat Two Finger had converted to Fairtrade.

The positive sales increase and Nestlé’s news came at the same time last year as Irish Rail announced that all the coffee across its 624 catering carriages on its national train services had converted to Fairtrade.

Fairtrade Ireland executive Peter Gaynor said at the time that more businesses need to follow the example of companies like Irish Rail and convert all of their products to Fairtrade.

Mr Gaynor said a 2011 consumer survey in 24 countries found that the highest percentage of those who believed companies can make a difference to poverty in developing countries was in Ireland.

“We agree and would welcome far bigger commitments from Irish retailers than we have seen to date,” he said.

However, a breakthrough was recently achieved by Fairtrade International with nine companies including Mars becoming the first to sign up to new Fairtrade sourcing programmes.

Initial 2014 volumes are set to deliver $1.2m in additional Fairtrade Premium to cocoa farmers by the year end.




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