Fair trade chocolate has long stopped being ‘fair’, according to Rodney Nikkels, founder of Amsterdam’s Chocolatemakers. “Farmers don’t get a fair price for it anymore. In 1990, they received 2,000 dollars per ton. Now, 30 years later, the price is only 2,400 dollars. A farmer can’t live on that, so we pay 4,000 dollars per ton; the price you’d get if you indexed 2,000 dollars to inflation. It’s also the price that the farmers themselves suggest when you ask them what they think is a fair price.”
For their ‘Puur Liefde’ (Pure Love) chocolate bar, the Chocolatemakers imports organically grown Criollo cocoa from the Colombian farmer’s cooperative Cooagronevada. This group of primarily women coffee farmers had been growing these cocoa trees in their gardens for years, but they only began cultivating the trees four years ago. Since then, they have also planted new trees to increase the share of cocoa in their farms. That is interesting for them, because their main crop - coffee - hasn’t been as profitable in recent years. “This was a great opportunity for them and for us, because the strain of cocoa trees is native to their region. It grows easily there, and the quality is unparalleled”, Rodney explains.
“It gives the farmers from Cooagronevada a kick-start for a better life”
Expensive artificial fertilizer
The share of cocoa grown by the Colombian farmers is increasing every year. Three years ago, they supplied 2,000 kilos of cocoa to Chocolatemakers. By 2020, that share had grown to 10,000 kilos, and Rodney expects double that amount this year. “They receive financial support from Rabo Foundation, which allows them to expand their operations. The Progreso foundation also helps them improve their techniques for growing cocoa. And you could consider the fair price the farmers get from us as the best fertilizer there is.”
The assistance gives the farmers from Cooagronevada a kick-start for a better life. “Our price, the knowledge offered by Progreso and the loan from Rabo Foundation – that all encourages the farmers to get serious about growing cocoa”, says Rodney. “That helps them build solid farms, which will continue to increase their incomes in the future. You can already see the effects. More and more farmers are joining the cooperative, and now they even collaborate with two other cooperatives. Four new cocoa buyers are also interested in their product. That’s often the most difficult thing for new cocoa producers: finding a sales market.”
The farmer’s love
While the farmers in Colombia are improving their lives, Chocolatemakers uses their cocoa to produce truly fair chocolate. And the price isn’t the only thing that’s good about the chocolate. Chocolatemakers brings the cocoa to its factory in Amsterdam aboard the sailing vessel Tres Hombres. There, they use the cocoa imported in 2021 to make the bar ‘Puur Liefde’ (Pure Love). Rodney: “A bar of 65% pure dark chocolate, with hints of raisins, cherries and prunes. And of course, all of the farmer’s love.”
Chocolatemakers' sustainable cocoa chain
The mission of our partner Chocolatemakers is a sustainable cocoa chain. Each link in the chain is in their own hands. Starting with the farmer cooperatives who receive a fair price for growing organic, high-quality cocoa. These are also only farmers who preserve and even restore nature during cultivation. By transporting with their traditional sailing ship Tres Hombres, Chocolatemakers has no carbon footprint. From the docks in Amsterdam, they bring the cacao by bike to their nearby artisanal chocolate factory. The factory is fully powered by solar energy. They process the cocoa themselves, nothing of the bean goes to waste. In this way Chocolatemakers produces zero waste. The chocolate packaging is biodegradable and the distribution of the chocolate bars is again done by bicycle.
The result? Farmers with a good income, a cleaner and better world and tasty chocolate.