Cocoa Thoughts 91


I attended a State Dinner in Accra a couple of nights ago in honour of President Ouatttara of Ivory Coast. Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo Addo made a speech which included the striking fact that Ghana and Ivory Coast produce between them 65% of the world’s cocoa, and yet receive only 5.5% of the income of the world chocolate industry.

This simple fact sums up much of the dilemma of Africa; stuck in primary commodity production and still, after decades of concentrated effort, unable to develop value added or to obtain a price for commodities – and particularly for farmers – that reflects their importance to the global value chain.

Cocoa has been one of the most successful areas of endeavour for the Fairtrade movement, but all of that has only resulted in that 5.5% figure, which without Fairtrade would be still lower. It is possible to buy Ghanaian made finished chocolate product in British supermarkets now, and excellent it is too, but it has a very small market share. Producing finished chocolate in Africa has its problems; chocolate is a much more delicate cargo than cocoa beans and reacts badly to either heat or refrigeration. Recipes which overcome this problem result in a certain harshness.

There has been some progress made in processing of the raw cocoa beans in Africa into butter and solids, but not on a scale which fundamentally affects the market.

The current Ghanaian government has made a major point of this issue. Here is Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta addressing it at the G20 Summit for Africa earlier this year. There is however no desire by the political and corporate establishment of the developed world to assist in any way.

Cooperation with Ivory Coast is obviously key to progress, but the two countries lack the financial reserves that would be required to initiate effective cartelisation; while I have to admit, against my own inclinations, that a free market in sales by the cocoa farmers has provided a much better living to them than the decades of efforts at state monopoly or various forms of price intervention. In Ghana both the Minister of Trade and the Chairman of the Cocoa Board at the moment happen to be old friends of mine and I hope to discuss the possible ways forward with them over the next week or so.

The situation is even further complicated by the hypothecation of Ghana’s cocoa revenue some years ago to repay China for the Bui Hydroelectric dam project. This was always a very poor project in terms of design and available water in the Volta watershed, and has had a number of disastrous wildlife consequences. There has been a huge amount of trumpeting of Chinese “aid” projects in Africa, but my experience has been that they are even more designed to help the “donor” country than Western aid, and almost always turn out to be loan rather than grant. As with the Bui Dam project, this is usually disguised in a lack of transparency about the underlying financial arrangements, and the Chinese surge into Africa has ramped up levels of corruption still further.

All that is true throughout Africa. There has been a further development specific to Ghana. Chinese convict labour was imported to build the Bui Dam. Many of the workers absconded into the countryside, taking the earth moving equipment with them, and started illegal gold-mining. The result was the collapse of the rule of law in much of the Ghanaian countryside, and the Chinese criminal gangs introduced the widespread use of firearms to protect their illegal workings, know in Ghana as Galamsey. Word spread back to China and thousands of Chinese gang members started to arrive to join the illegal trade – of course facilitated by Ghanaian administrative corruption. The result has been a massive expansion in illegal working in Ghana with environmental consequences which include the complete devastation of several key watersheds and the wholesale pollution of community drinking water supplies.

I have known the Ankobra river for 20 years and I can assure you that, astonishing as it may be, the change is due not to seasonal factors but to illegal mining. The Pra was also until recently limpid.

As so often, Al Jazeera produces the best documentaries.

Western involvement in Africa has been a disastrous history of exploitation over six centuries, and still is. It is therefore very fashionable, particularly on the left in the West, but also in some African nationalist circles, to hail China’s surge into Africa as some sort of redress. It has always looked to me on the ground as the arrival of yet another group of rapacious neo-imperialists to exploit Africa, and every year of observation has confirmed my view, which like most of my views is not fashionable.

A recent study concluded that Chinese aid is as effective in African development as Western aid. All I can say is, that is an extraordinarily low bar.

I don’t eat much chocolate nowadays. My alarming girth is entirely the product of the drinks industry. But the other day little Cameron gave me one of his chocolate buttons, and I was absolutely shocked by the unpleasant oily texture that instantly developed, and the lack of cocoa flavour in the overly sweet taste. I have never been a chocolate snob and always enjoyed the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk flavour. But the concoction of sugar and palm oil that so quickly developed in my mouth bore no relation to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk before Kraft/Mondolez took it over. A quick google revealed they deny they have changed the recipe.

Despite all the problems, the emerging economies of Africa continue the trend of the last 20 years of growing at a faster rate than Europe or the United States. My rather unconventional suggestion is that the African states concerned should look to their improved capital formation and ability to borrow, to buy in to the major western chocolate manufacturers in a big way. Perhaps in collaboration with China, which is sitting on trillions of dollars. It will take that sort of radical shift in market conditions for the problem Nana Addo so rightly identified, to be addressed.


91 thoughts on “Cocoa Thoughts

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  • Robyn

    ‘Producing finished chocolate in Africa has its problems …’

    Perhaps they could pop over to Switzerland or Belgium – their chocolatiers manage to get their product in perfect condition to far-flung countries.

    • craig Post author

      Robyn,

      No, they don’t. You can’t get Lindt or Nehuas in perfect condition in tropical countries. Chocolate travels perfectly well within the temperate zone.

      • Robyn

        Still not sure, Craig. it’s not at all temperate where I live in Australia and Lindt and other fine European chocolate is readily available.

        • Tom

          Of course you can manufacture, transport and store chocolate in a tropical climate if you have the resources to control the temperature all the way from the farm to the shop and in between, but this adds to the cost which the customers may be less willing to pay.

          Even in a template climate the ambient temperature isn’t always suitable and in any case temperature fluctuations do this much harm as continuous extremes.

          This is one reason why the largest manufacturers replace cooker batter with palm out as it makes the chocolate less sensitive to different storage temperatures.

          Having said all of the above, it’s definitely possible for cocoa farmers to add value by creating the finished chocolate. Look at the Granada chocolate company as an example of truly fair trade. Unfortunately its uniqueness speaks volumes about the current industry.

    • reel guid

      A lot of Belguim’s wealth came courtesy of the Congo. Undoubtedly the worst tale of the imperial era.

  • reel guid

    Neo-imperialism. Environmental degradation. Disrespect for democracy. On all continents.

    Never mind all that. Ruth the Rising Star Davidson is to appear on a celebrity edition of the Great British Bake Off. Rejoice peasants!

  • Sharp Ears

    Is China ‘sitting on trillions of dollars’? Not according to the Barclay Bros.

    China’s debt boom could lead to financial crisis, IMF warns
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/08/…/chinas-debt-boom-could-lead-financial-crisis-imf-warn...
    15 Aug 2017 – China’s economy is reliant on too much debt and the enormous boom in credit risks leading to a new financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned. … “International experience suggests that China’s current credit trajectory is dangerous with increasing risks …
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/08/15/chinas-debt-boom-could-lead-financial-crisis-imf-warns/

  • giyane

    We are sitting on trillions of dollars here in the UK. It belongs to stockbrokers living in the London green Belt. For some reason nobody has yet managed to label what they do as corruption. Apart from Samuel Johnson. Could we focus attention on the criminality of white European colonial corruption rather than dark African colonial corruption? Are we ready to let go of our own idea of ourselves as morally superior to the rest of the world? I don’t think so.

  • Sachin Patel

    Crazy idea – but why doesn’t their government seed chocolate businesses with production factories in temperate climates? Export the beans over to these factories and voila!

  • glenn_nl

    Cadbury’s have definitely changed the Creme Egg formula, together with various other unwelcome changes:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/features/the-many-ways-cadbury-is-losing-its-magic/

    Compared with the sort of chocolate we have on the continent, UK chocolate is a nasty, bitter, over-sugared poor substitute. No idea why we put up with it – probably a leftover concept from the war. Our chocolate tastes terrible. Bread is bland and very limited in variety (and grossly overpriced). Coffee costs a hell of a lot more in the UK – often over three pounds a cup, compared with one in the US or the continent. And so on.

    Mind you, between meals the European mainlanders have a very novel approach – they stop eating. Together with the exercise we get over here from the vastly more enlightened traffic policy (use of bicycles is actually encouraged, not a measure of how little you value your life), waistlines are significantly lower on the whole.

    I used to think British chocolate tasted so nasty just to discourage over-consumption. Clearly that cannot be the case, as they manage just fine here on the continent.

    *

    Sad to hear that Chinese “investment” isn’t as good for the targeted country as it might be. Not surprising, but sad news all the same.

      • glenn_nl

        Of course not. Just a slightly tongue-in-cheek commentary on what I’ve observed since actually living here for a significant stretch. Sorry if you had a problem with it.

        • Disinterested Bystander

          I particularly like the way the Dutch make chips a healthy food option by tipping boatloads of mayonnaise over them.

    • Dave Lawton

      “Coffee costs a hell of a lot more in the UK – often over three pounds a cup, compared with one in the US or the continent. And so on.”
      What planet our you on I pay £2 for a good cup of ground coffee.Which is cheaper than the average US cup.You must be being ripped
      off.

  • Angus MacRuary

    As a chocolatier I could bore for Scotland, but I will offer up only one piece of information. In the past 16 months the cost of couverture chocolate (the chocolate that most chocolatiers use as their basic raw material) has risen by 22%. Half of this is down the the fall in the value of the pound due to Brexit and half is due to the cost of cocoa beans rising.

    How much of the price increase is going to benefit the farmers in the countries of origin? You can probably guess the answer to that.

  • reel guid

    The Chinese don’t seem to be holding to their promises of helping sub-Saharan African countries to economically diversify. Beijing is repeating the Western colonial game of resource extraction combined with flooding African markets with cheap Chinese goods.

    O/T

    Scottish Tory MP Douglas Ross will miss today’s all day universal credit debate in the Commons because he is on UEFA Champions League duty as a linesman in, of all places, Barcelona. For which he will recieve a nice payment. He got around £1500 for a Europa League match recently.

    While some of his Moray constituents struggle under draconian Tory welfare policies, he’s posted missing from an important welfare debate, making money for himself with his glamorous second job.

    Politicians in other countries have been recalled by their voters for less.

    • Republicofscotland

      reel guid.

      Now that you mention useless Tories, (is there any other kind?). I see Libya’s UN rep and a human rights organisation are calling for the Foreign secretary Boris Johnson to apologise, over his slur regarding dead bodies in Libya.

      However, the clown prince of Westminster Johnson has point blankly refused to apologise.

      At present (due to Scotland not being independent ) this calamitous buffoon represents you and I abroad. What a embarrassment he is.

      http://www.thenational.scot/news/15601410.Boris_Johnson_refuses_to_apologise_for__dead_bodies__Libya_joke/

      • reel guid

        Ros

        Yes Johnson thinks he can be a foreign minister and still behave as if he was in the Bullingdon Club.

        Meanwhile at PMQs May backed Ross’s absence when asked by the SNP.

        Then there’s the other disgrace Ruth Davidson. Who can find the time to appear on plenty of TV entertainment shows but hardly ever holds a surgery for constituents.

      • Republicofscotland

        Ross, is ducking a vital vote on Universal Credit to run the line in a Champions league game.

        Universal Credit, from what I’ve read is seriously hurting poor folk, yet Ross, has shunned a vote on it to indulge his hobby.

        You tell me how that serves his constituents? It doesn’t.

        • fred

          He’s been to 82.6% more commons votes than Mhairi Black.

          Sounds to me like he’s serving his constituents 82.6% better than she is.

      • reel guid

        Mhairi Black has voted 49 times in 2017 according to The Public Whip website.

        Also it should be remembered that the SNP policy at Westminster is to abstain on England only or England/Wales only legislation unless it has some, usually financial, knock on effect on Scotland.

        Douglas Ross missed important votes at Holyrood when he was an MSP, because of his football activities. He promised Moray voters in the GE this year that he wouldn’t let it get in the way of his representing their interests at Westminster. But of course unionist politicians can scarcely keep a promise.

  • Patrick

    hi Craig, chocolate is close to my heart. I follow a very low carbohydrate diet, which allows unsweetened cocoa with cream as an optional extra. I drink at least two cups a day. Since following this diet I have become really pretty slim. Perhaps this might interest you.

    I am puzzled as to why price intervention requires financial reserves. Could Ghana and Ivory Coast not both agree on an export tax, which I would suggest be a fixed price per kg of cocoa beans? Then this tax can be redistributed however, and varied for optimal results, while farmers will still be able to have room for negotiation.

    There is nothing wrong with farming, it’s clearly a valuable activity – indeed necessity – for all societies so there must be a way it can work for Africa.

    • Martinned

      Wait, your solution is to tax the export of the thing that the country would like to export as much as possible of? That only works if the country really has market power, in the sense that the product in question can’t be obtained anywhere else. In this case, at a minimum that would require a (credible) agreement between Ghana and Ivory Coast, and even then that’s only 65% of the world market.

      • Patrick

        65% of the world’s market seems quite sufficient to make moves with. The remaining 35% is not going to be able to triple production.

        Although one doesn’t want the situation where the producer is expected to take the hit from the tax.

        Perhaps a cocoa price shock is needed like the OPEC oil price shocks on the 1970s!

    • J Galt

      Could they not agree an export tax?

      If they tried that they’d soon find themselves on the receiving end of “regime change” because they’d suddenly become evil or something!

  • mrjohn

    Bournville is worse, used to be tangy, slender, bitter, now it is bulky, sweet & insipid. Almost as bad as the millennial whoop.

  • Old Mark

    There has been a further development specific to Ghana. Chinese convict labour was imported to build the Bui Dam. Many of the workers absconded into the countryside, taking the earth moving equipment with them, and started illegal gold-mining. The result was the collapse of the rule of law in much of the Ghanaian countryside, and the Chinese criminal gangs introduced the widespread use of firearms to protect their illegal workings

    Great on the spot reporting from Craig here about something (Chinese use of convict labour on aid infrastructure projects they are funding, and the problems that arise when this labour absconds from site) only specialists were probably aware of hitherto. It is widely known that the Chinese prefer to import their own workforce on foreign aid projects they fund, as Chinese ethnocentrism (to put it politely) considers the native workforces as lazier and less competent. However this is the first I’ve heard about convict labour being used on Chinese aid projects, and the unfortunate consequences that flow from that.

    On the ‘chocolate snob’ issue I much prefer high cocoa plain chocolate, but find some of the best stuff comes from Lidl, who do a range of dark chocolate bars from fairtrade sourced plantations around the world for very reasonable prices- so where does that put me on the ‘snob’ spectrum?

    • Geoffrey

      Presumably it is also a way of China further gaining economic control of the developing country,those Chinese labourers who have absconded will buy Chinese products from China. Creating and expanding the market for Chinese tat.

  • Republicofscotland

    “China, which is sitting on trillions of dollars.”

    What a coincidence, Britain is also sitting on trillions, trillions in debt that is.

    As for river pollution in Africa by Chinese/African gangs, the Chinese economic rise saw rivers polluted, and the loss of unique species such as the Chinese River Dolphin.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baiji

    It’s claimed that the Chinese River Dolphin, is the first dolphin species, that man has driven to extinction. But then again, humans have no limits to the amount of ecological destruction and damage they do to make a profits.

    It almost makes me ashamed to be part of the human race.

    I’d imagine their surge across the African continent, will in the long run do irreparable damage to the magnificent flora and fauna of the great continent.

    No doubt the Chinese will surpass the white man’s culpability on the African continent. That however wil take some doing.

  • Robert Crawford

    Cocoa,
    my all time favourite tree crop!

    Nice working conditions, I don’t think. Imagine that here.

    The Chinese labour will be being paid a lot more than the locals. They are there to keep Mr Fu from getting his hands dirty, and to keep the locals productive.

    The cocoa trees shown in the video are certainly in a poor condition. I guess that was to highlight the pollution from the gold mining.

    Don’t you just love black music? I could listen to it all day. It stirs my soul. Ah, those were the days, how my heart aches!

    I donated money once to help free two brothers who were taken from the interior to work on a coastal fishing village. I wonder if they were freed and returned home, or, was that just the hook to get me to part with some money? What the hell, my conscience is clear.

    • Robert Crawford

      Why do women love chocolate?

      If you want to know read the book of the same name.

      The magic ingredient in chocolate to make one feel good is, Phenylalanine.
      If you want to get off chocolate to loose weight, supplement with Phenylalanine. Just sprinkle a little over your first meal of the day and it will stop the craving for chocolate, and make you feel good.

      • Sharp Ears

        Weinstein’s Miramax produced the film ‘Chocolat’.

        ‘Chocolat (French pronunciation: ​[ʃɔkɔla]) is a 2000 British-American romantic comedy-drama film based on the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris, and was directed by Lasse Hallström. Adapted by screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, Chocolat tells the story of a young mother, played by Juliette Binoche, who arrives at the fictional, repressed French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes with her six-year-old daughter and opens La Chocolaterie Maya, a small chocolaterie. Her chocolate quickly begins to change the lives of the townspeople.’
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolat_(2000_film)

        ‘Oliver said of the claim. “So, step aside, Chocolat: You are no longer the most horrifying picture that Harvey Weinstein has ever produced.”
        http://ew.com/tv/2017/10/09/john-oliver-harvey-weinstein/

      • Sinister Burt

        Phenethylamine i think it is (as in PIHKAL). Theo bromine and caffiene have a lot to do with it too

    • Republicofscotland

      Addendum, to my above comment.

      Sep ’14: 13 Type 26 frigates if you vote “No”, Scotland.
      Nov ’16: Only 8 but you’ll get 5 Type 31.
      Oct ’17: You’re not getting those either.

      It’s not a union, it’s a you do what we tell you, and you get what we say.

      Time to leave I think.

      • reel guid

        Ros

        Of course some of those ship orders might have come to the Clyde if Mundell had ever behaved like previous Scottish Secretaries, who, although all unionists, saw it as their duty to fight Scotland’s corner in cabinet.

      • Kempe

        Last line:-

        ” Taking account our current and future workload, including Type 26, our shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s. ”

        Out of interest what work do you think Clyde shipbuilders would have post-independence?

        • Rob Royston

          They will be commissioned by Fox and Johnston to build a new Royal Yacht for Queen Elizabeth the First.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig,

    Jamaica in the 1970s sought to obtain more for its Bauxite ( raw material for the aerospace industry with the raw material being transformed into aluminum).. It did so by linking price to London based prices. The advantage did not last for long. The companies shifted a lot of production to Australia and disinvestment in the Caribbean region ( supply sources such as Guyana and Jamaica) took place. International capital has power and that power ensures that as much control as it can muster is exercised to control global market prices and production share ( i.e. not wanting nationalisation and/or not inclining towards joint ventures with Third World governments).

    The China card is interesting. Probably, at the end of the day, not likely to be much different to that of Western capital.

    Third World and Africa placed between a rock and a hard place I guess. But – try we must.

  • M.J.

    1. Where can you get Ghanaian chocolate, and what brand is it (you may write in Caesarian or use stars to conceal some of the name if you wish).
    2. Kr*ft-Mon**ez chocolate sounds ghastly. Can you recommend other chocolate that is OK? What about R*wn**** or F*y (F*y’s chocolate cream is one of my favourites, but none too easy to get hold of).

  • Sharp Ears

    I went into an Oxfam shop today and noticed that they sell a wide range of ‘Divine’ chocolate.

    ‘In autumn 1998, Divine, the first ever farmer-owned Fairtrade chocolate bar aimed at the mass market was launched onto the UK confectionery market. In an exciting new business model, the co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana own shares in the company making the chocolate bar. Two farmers’ representatives came to London to celebrate at the most Divine launch party in town. Here’s how it all happened . . . .

    Collecting cocoa pods photo

    “Those who impact positively on the lives of others shall forever live in the memory of the heart.” PCK Buah, President, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

    Getting it Together

    In the early 1990’s, the structural adjustment program involved the liberalisation of the cocoa market in Ghana. A number of leading farmers, including a visionary farmer representative on the Ghana Cocoa Board, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, came to realise that they had the opportunity to organize farmers, to take on the internal marketing function. This would mean that they could set up a company, to sell their own cocoa to the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC), the state-owned company that would continue to be the single exporter of Ghana cocoa.

    These farmers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers’ co-op, which would trade its own cocoa, and thus manage the selling process more efficiently than the government cocoa agents. Kuapa Kokoo – which means good cocoa growers – has a mission to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in all of Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa. The farmers who set up Kuapa Kokoo, were supported by Twin Trading, the fair trade company that puts the coffee into Cafédirect and SNV a Dutch NGO.

    Kuapa Kokoo weighs, bags and transports the cocoa to market and carries out all the necessary legal paperwork for its members. Kuapa strives to ensure that all its activities are transparent, accountable and democratic.
    /..
    http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/about-us/research-resources/divine-story

  • Martin

    That’s the farmer’s situation in all ’emerging markets’ methinks. The middlemen are the winners. Here in Thailand I live in the sticks where subsistance farming is easily the biggest occupation. But…if you can build a solar drier, weighbridge, warehouse and buy heavy equipment to shovel it around you are laughing all the way to the bank!

    • Habbabkuk

      Yes, I agree. I’m so glad she’s broken her very long silence, I was beginning to think she’d turned into one of those awful troughers.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Whilst I read your views on The African Cocoa trade from your book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, on the flight back home last week, I did not experience any pollution whatsoever, except once, when I suspect the large hotel close to a very otherwise nice beach didn’t have a sewage system, except straight into the sea (like Blackpool in 1963)….

    But that was nothing compared to India. The pollution from the mining was so completely atrocious, that the entire fresh water table had been completely polluted. The tap water tasted of heavy metal, and it was totally undrinkable – yet I suspect a few years previously it would be totally fine, like other parts of India…

    Then we travelled through the mining areas – up to the crystal clear water falls in the mountains, where we swam in the fresh water pools. the air pollution for about 10 miles on the way was almost completely unbelieveable with all the locals wearing whatever masks they could make to protect their breathing…

    So I asked the locals who was responsible for this.

    Several said Japanese mining companies. They may well have been British mining companies – but they didn’t blame us (though we may well be guilty)

    Personally, I blame The Indian Govenment for not regulating them.

    We all need mineral resources, but there is no need to destroy the planet and the local populations in order to maximise profit for already incredibly rich multinational corporations.

    Most waste is actually a potentially very rich resource. Dumping it in the rivers to kill both the fish and the human population is outrageous…

    But who is in a position to both complain, and effect change – when nearly all the supposed environmentalists are obsessed with climate change?

    The real climate change, is that those now in power are complete (very rich) idiots who care nothing about anything except getting richer. They are effectively killing their customers. They have no empathy whatsoever. They just like seeing the number of zeros get longer in their bank accounts.

    Not now just a millionaire – but a billionaire.

    This is not good.

    Tony

  • Republicofscotland

    Meanwhile.

    Meanwhile, the vote on whether to pause the roll out of UC, in the HoC tonight went like this.

    To pause-299

    To continue-0

    Most Tories abstained.

    Alas the vote is symbolic.

    Still I’m confident Mighty Mhairi’s speech had a huge impact, if only a symbolic one at that.

    • Tony_0pmoc

      Republicofscotland ,

      I’m a big fan of Mhairi Black, not least because of the massive support and speeches she has made in support of my wife and ex-girlfriends – who were all promised the pensions they had paid for at age 60, and now won’t get them till they are 66, if they live that long. It’s blatant government fraud, that a private copany would never get away with except by going bust and robbing all the pensioners’ money. Governments are not supposed to do that. My ex is a prominent supporter of The WASPI movement – not that it has made the slightest difference. She is now skint, thanks to Her Majesty’s Government stealing her pension. They should all be in prison.

      Tony

  • freddy

    Last year, one leading index measuring perceptions of corruption rated Ukraine close to the bottom quarter of nations around the world.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41660871

    How corrupt is Catalonia,
    how corrupt will it get, after independence?

    The reason politicians want independence, is so they can fill their own boots.

  • Iain Orr

    An excellent post on a neglected subject. I hope those who have the right links will share with/tweet on many other blogsites dealing with trade in agricultural commodities, food, recipes, travel, luxury products and international development. One of my favourite chocolate bars, first tasted in Japan (where large quantities of Ghanaian cocoa beans are processed, sold and exported), is “Lotte Ghana Black Chocolate”. Many other African and South and Central American growers also get only a tiny proportion of the final value of branded products with distinct geographical origins (and local methods of cultivation).

  • Carlyle Moulton

    All empires are EVIL.

    As English speakers we have an unreasonably benign view of the British empire when in fact it was every bit as abusive as the American, Belgian, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish empires.

    The rising Chinese empire will be no better and it treatment of Uigars and Tibetans shows how it will treat others who fall under its sway.

  • fwl

    Convict colonialism? A sub-species of colonialism?Or is it the norm? Ie isn’t there usually a need for some rough sorts whether as Marcher Lords or more informally as escaped or settled convicts to get feet and facts established on the ground.

    • fwl

      It really is quite ingenious. Remove your wild uncontrollable rabble, disown them, but later take advantage of their “work”.

      Cf convicts’ deported to Australia, or opium traders developing HK. I am sure there are many such egs and there could be a few PhDs in convict colonialism.

      • fwl

        Sir Henry Morgan and piracy / privateers come to mind. Men who were licenced to engaged in piracy against state enemies.

        I have also read of Chinese traders (not convicts) developing inroads into the empty wildernesses of Siberia.

        When you think it state organized colonialism must be the most problematic form as it will result in other countries either blaming ir copying you, and so to large scale conflict. How much more efficient to subtly allow one’s more adventurous and troublesome to do the dirty work in a process easily denied. I suspect China has made a thorough study of British imperial history.

  • Phil the ex frog

    Of course the EU also continues the imperialist pillage of Africa. Forcing liberalisation of their economies so international capital can grab the lions share offshore. Yet keeping strict protectionism in industries where Africans might compete.

    But the CAP and a policy to let poc drown in the med are one thing. But knocking nationalists heads is simply too much for a nationalist to bear. Look, nasty Chinese capitalists.

  • Phil the ex frog

    Ghana and Ivory Coast should form a political union and invade a third of the world. They could then have a global market share comparable to, say, Scottish whiskey.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    The trouble is that if a Chinese loan – on any terms – comes with more cashback for the local worthies than a Western loan, regardless of the morality, the Chinese will get the job. Corruption defeats ethical business, worldwide, every time. I don’t think it will be any less in Ghana than it is in the UK, merely less visible, perhaps. And what a terrible commentary on the UK that is.

    Would African investment in Lindt et al bring an improvement to the producers? Not if I know my market economics. The price paid to the production chain – not the producers themselves specifically – might increase, but at the top of that chain would be suits, not boots. and they would be maximising their profits at the expense of workers’ wages to the limit of what the market would bear. LIke any graduate of Harvard Business School or LSE would. Neoliberalism in blackface, if you’ll pardon the expression, not that I expect you to. No, I haven’t any better ideas. Human nature is human nature.

    You mention palm oil as an ingredient of bad chocolate. Like cacao, growing oil palm requires the essentially permanent clearance of native rain forest: environmentally at least as devastating as gold or bauxite mining. However, and the chocolatiers commenting on this please correct me, isn’t palm oil just an industrial substitute for cocoa butter? And what is the justification for importing the cocoa without the butter while importing palm oil from similar regions? Is it simply an economy of scale?

    • J

      Just about anything that requires cooking oil has palm oil in it, from bread to sandwich fillers. My guess is that it’s fractionally cheaper to import palm oil from a devastated rain forest across the world than it is to grow a field of rape or sunflower seeds in Europe.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        The USP for palm oil is that, unlike rapeseed (Am – canola) or sunflower oil, it’s semi-solid at room temperature – if your room isn’t in the tropics. So it can substitute for cocoa butter, which is solid to just below body temperature (thx, Wikipedia).

        But, here’s a thing. While 5% of total fats in chocolate can be other than cocoa butter in the EU, if you put anyalternative fat in your chocolate in the US, you can’t call it chocolate. Doesn’t stop you calling it a Hershey bar, I guess, or claiming it to be edible.

        The fact remains that cocoa butter is packaged with the chocolate solids in each and every cocoa bean, and there is no need to add anything.

    • Phil the ex frog

      I’m in the Portugese mountains. Here there is an environmental catastrophe born out of greed. Eucalyptus trees imported for easy cash crops are spreading like a plague. They suck all the water, after 3 crops the soil is done. The mountains are scarred. The fires fed. No Chinese nor Africans involved.

      It’s a shame you still blame human nature though you cynical old soldier.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        When I blame human nature, I always recite a line of Sanscrit: tat tvam asi ….”that thou art”. I have to pretend that I am not really a lizard.

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