on 18 April 2011
Orla Ryan is a Financial Times journalist who previously worked for Reuters in Ghana, where she reported on cocoa for its general and financial news service. In this book she attempts to cast a factual, dispassionate and objective eye on the cocoa trade in Africa; adopting an analytical rather than an emotional approach. There are eight chapters in this short (160 page) but heavy-hitting work. The first two look at the contrasting histories of cocoa growing in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is followed by a chapter that examines the extent to which child labour is used on cocoa farms, and the distinction between child and slave labour. The fourth chapter concentrates on corruption in Cote d'Ivoire and the fate of journalist Guy Andre, a man who asked too many questions about where cocoa money was disappearing to. The fifth chapter looks at the practical trials and tribulations of Steve Wallace, an American with a dream to produce chocolate in Ghana, including the very real physical location and structural difficulties of operating there. Chapter six seeks to separate the "myths and reality" of the various fair trade approaches to cocoa growing and buying, while the penultimate chapter examines how the cocoa trade really works - a complicated set of power dynamics involving global corporates, country cocoa boards and cocoa speculators, but rarely cocoa farmers themselves. The final chapter looks forward to how to create a sustainable future for a cocoa industry which is struggling to meet world demand, where cocoa farmers often struggle to survive and where, in consequence, the younger generation do not want to enter the business. The answer to the plight of the cocoa farmer is not a simple one, and consumers, chocolate companies, national governments, scientists, and cocoa farmers themselves all have a part to play. But, as in Carol Off's excellent "Bitter Chocolate", Orla Ryan's starting point for a better future for cocoa farmers seems to be in improved education for cocoa farmers (both fundamental and agro-business), and in stable non-corrupt government and government bodies in the main cocoa-producing countries. I highly recommend both this book and "Bitter Chocolate" as an introduction to the issues surrounding the cocoa industry and the plight of the cocoa farmer. This book just shades it in terms of my recommendation because of its distilled focus.
on 7 June 2011
This presents an enlightening account and interesting perspective from within West Africa, of the chocolate producing countries. As is often the case, with most rare commodoties, their value,their sourcing and their further development into saleable products,is more than a bitter-sweet route.This is just the beginning and part of the global story and will pave the way for more revelations and opinions of all the associated parties and companies involved in the production of cocoa and chocolate.A story set to run and run... This book has provided an appetite to discover more of the bitter-truths surrounding this desirable product.