Chocolates are everyone’s favorite; from the tiniest kids to the older folks, everyone relishes chocolates. Chocolate can be enjoyed as it is or can be used to create or enhance the most indulgent desserts. Most of us may remember our childhood days, when we stealthily raided the fridge for handfuls of chocolates, only to be caught red-handed by our moms, who were constantly worried that eating too much chocolate could take a toll on our health, our teeth in particular, due to its high sugar content and low nutritional value.
Yet, chocolate is not entirely devoid of benefits. It is a rich source of antioxidants, and helps in improving our blood flow and in controlling blood pressure significantly, when taken in moderate amounts. Dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease. Moreover, it can help in reducing stress levels, thus brightening one’s mood.
Do you know how we get this delicious product? There is a long and intricate process that goes into preparing these favourite sweet treats of ours. Many people are unaware that chocolate is a fermented food. You heard that right; once the cacao pods are picked, and cleaned of pithy white material from the fruit, they are dried, and then the beans are fermented. The cacao nibs are revealed once the papery shell is removed. Chocolatiers then grind the nibs into cocoa mass, separating them into cocoa solids and cocoa butter; they then combine them with milk and sugar.
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the two largest producers of cocoa, accounting for over 60% of global cocoa production, followed by Ecuador with 7%. According to the International Cocoa Organization, it can take around 3-5 years to cultivate a crop of new cocoa plants. The global chocolate market reached a value of almost USD 106.6 billion in the year 2020, which is further expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% between 2021 and 2026 to reach a value of almost USD 147 billion by 2026. [https://www.expertmarketresearch.com/reports/chocolate-market ]
But as the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa. On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income way below the poverty line; this has led to the rampant use of child labour in order to keep prices at competitive levels. Thus, the way in which the market is structured has impoverished smallholder farmers and left them with no choice but to pull their children from school and have them help on the plantations. With low educational access and attendance, families in the cocoa sector are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty. Cocoa producers have little bargaining power against the few large multinational companies, that control the supply chain and ultimately determine economic outcomes for cocoa-farming families.
As you munch on a chocolate today, give a thought to these families. There are many organizations and collectives that work towards the welfare of these people, and other such marginalized groups across the world. Maybe we can contribute to such causes financially, as well as through our voice. Also, don’t forget to share your chocolate with your loved ones, as well as those who cannot afford one. Happy chocolate day!