Chocolate anarchy: how one Grenadian producer is sweetening the deal on chocolate

The packaging room at Grenada Chocolate Company
The packaging room at Grenada Chocolate Company

Willy Wonka had it easy, compared to Grenada’s artisan chocolatier Mott Green.

Sure, Wonka had to deal with awful Veruca Salt and vermicious Knids, but he didn’t have to make his chocolate in the heat and humidity of the Caribbean, and on an island that has the most expensive electricity supply in the world.

Mott Green set up the Grenada Chocolate Company in 1999, and while it is “the smallest chocolate factory in the world”, it has perhaps the biggest heart, run as an ethical cooperative, so that profits are shared out fairly. “I’m like a political activist version of Wonka,” says Mott.

I had chance to look around the factory when I visited Grenada in June, and brought back a dozen bars of the delicious dark chocolate for friends and family  who loved it just as much as me. So when I was invited to the premier of a new documentary about Mott and his chocolate – with the promise of some free samples – I did not need asking twice.

The new film is called “Nothing Like Chocolate”, and was born out of the director’s interest in exploring trafficked child labour in the mass production of chocolate. I learned that an estimated 20,000 children are currently enslaved in cocoa-harvesting in West Africa – a region which grows 70% of the world’s cocoa.  But at the film’s premier, director Kum-Kum Bhavnani told us she was reluctant to focus only on the horrifying situation in West Africa. “I didn’t want to do a victim-and-rescue film,” she explained, “so I thought, let’s find someone who’s doing it ethically.”

Her film describes how Mott started the company when he saw how cocoa production on the Caribbean island was in decline. He realised that the fairest way to produce chocolate was to make it “from bean to bar” in the country in which the cocoa is grown, meaning the growers get a fair price. In fact, those local farmers that sell their cocoa to Mott earn US$2 per pound, compared to the US$1.30 they would earn by selling it to the government for export. He has now built up the business to selling EC$1 million-worth of chocolate in 2010, and has dramatically changed the lives of 40-50 people on the island through the cooperative.

I was interested to hear his views on the concept of ‘fair trade’. Mott has not applied for fair trade certification for the company, as that would take money away from the whole project. He also claimed that the fair trade concept has its flaws, since “the exporter of a product might get the fair trade price, but not the farmer”. For Mott, the focus should be on the “intimacy” of the production process instead of certification.

Kum-Kum and Mott at the premier
Kum-Kum and Mott at the premier

Speaking at the premier, he said he was optimistic that his artisanal approach could gain real traction, and told us that his model has inspired dozens of other projects around the world – “I get emails every week from cocoa farmers asking for advice on how to do things differently,” he said, “ though I am tactfully vague if I don’t think their set-up is right”.

While the International Labour Rights Forum continues to campaign against those chocolate companies that are still not buying fairly traded cocoa to stamp out child-labour, there was one note of optimism at the film premier: Kum-Kum announced that chocolate giant Hershey had just agreed that it will certify 100% of its cocoa by 2020.

If you ever get chance to visit Grenada yourself, do drop in on Mott and his team to see the factory and buy bars of unadulterated chocolate, or at Belmonte Estate where you can buy a range of bon-bons.

You can also buy his products in the UK (I recommend the Nib-alicious).

To order a copy of Kum-Kum’s excellent film, see the film’s website here.

And for more on the ILRF’s cocoa campaign, see the ILRF site.

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