The transformation of the Dominican Republic from a producer of low-grade cacao for chocolate bars and powdered cocoa to a powerhouse in the production of high quality organic cocoa has been one of the most remarkable agricultural developments of the last three decades in the Caribbean. The transformation owes its success to the country’s decentralized approach to production, which is organized around an association of Dominican farmers working under an umbrella organization (the National Confederation of Dominican Cacao Producers), and to their effectiveness in placing themselves at the top of the growing market in fair-trade cacao. Dominican cacao farmers, the Christian Science Monitor argues in an article published this week, “were perfectly positioned to enter the new niche market. Relatively poor, they had never adopted the pesticide- and fertilizer-intensive methods of modern agriculture. To go organic, they didn’t have to radically alter their farming practices.” Their very success, some argue, may be beginning to undermine CONACADO’s continued growth. “What we’re seeing is rapid growth in demand, so there’s ample room for increased production,” says Laura Raynolds, codirector of Colorado State University’s Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies in Fort Collins. But “as this market expands, does it begin to undermine the initial values that the movement seeks to espouse?”
The Fair trade movement, which can be traced back to the 1940s, has gained a lot of momentum since the late 1980s. It offers a market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries reach consumers for their goods and promote sustainability. The movement encourages the payment of a higher price to marginalized producers of goods cultivated or manufactured sustainably in order to promote their economic self-sufficiency and stability. Fair-trade labels first began appearing in the late 1980s, when plummeting commodities prices were wreaking havoc in developing economies. Although still a small portion of the overall market, the fair-trade sector has grown rapidly. Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) certified more than $3.62 billion worth of products in 2007, a 47 percent increase over 2006.
For much more see the article in the Christian Science Monitor at http://features.csmonitor.com/economyrebuild/2009/06/09/the-challenge-of-fair-trade-chocolate/
Photo: Rafael I. Merchan at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafamerchan/182120447/