Conflict cocoa

The world cannot afford to stay silent on a conflict bubbling in a corner of Africa that has already pushed up prices of – what some people consider to be – an essential commodity to a 30-year high in recent months.

If the crisis spirals out of control – as may be the case, with one man hanging on to power despite the rising popularity of his electoral opponent and de jure winner of last year’s elections – there is every chance of shortages due to falling production in the battle zone.

That must not be allowed to happen, else many people will be left ganache-ing their teeth by 2014, when chocolate production may grind to a halt for want of raw material from sustainable sources.

So far, there has been a cautious reaction from major players to the call by activists to clamp down on exports from Ivory Coast, but as the world demand for chocolate has not fallen significantly, there is little chance of the world making that bean-ana republic a nougat-zone.

It is not surprising the sale of conflict cocoa – some may call it blood beans – continues, for the bitter truth is that Ivory Coast produces 32% of the world’s total supply and cutting it out of sourcing calculations is no trifling matter. So, a contraband cocoa channel has been in operation and beans are making their way under couverture of darkness to international markets via soft-centred neighbours.

To avert a 2014 cocoa crisis and spur an early settlement of the Ivorian stalemate, an awareness campaign run by socially-conscious chocolatiers – on the lines of those on fur and diamonds – could be the answer, with ethical cocoa as the ultimate aim.

If there is also a name-and-shame initiative to stop the furtive purchases or gifting of conflict chocolates, the world may yet have its cocoa and eat it too.

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