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Also cacao bean, often simply cocoa and cacao, is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted. They are the basis of chocolate, as well as many Mesoamerican foods such as mole sauce and tejate.
A cocoa pod (fruit) has a rough leathery rind about 3 cm thick (this varies with the origin and variety of pod). It is filled with sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called 'baba de cacao' in South America) enclosing 30 to 50 large seeds that are fairly soft and white to pale lavender in color. While seeds are usually white, they become violet or reddish brown during the drying process. The exception is rare varieties of white cacao, in which the seeds remain white. (Wikipedia)
The cacao tree is native to the Americas. It may have originated in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America where today, examples of wild cacao still can be found.
Cocoa is produced, traded and consumed in vast quantities across the globe. While cocoa production occurs within the tropical regions of the developing world, the majority of cocoa manufacturing and consumption occurs within the developed world.
Approximately 90% of the world’s cocoa supply is grown and harvested on family-owned farms with plot sizes of 12 acres or less, while only 5% of cocoa is grown on plantations over 40 hectares in size.
Many small farmers are unaware of the changing value of their crops. Because of this they are frequently paid much lower than market prices for their harvest by middlemen. Many farmers claim that commercial traders often resort to using distorted scales in order to trick the farmers into thinking their cocoa weighs less than it actually does. Farmers can therefore receive less revenue for their crops than what even the market levels dictate.
In fact, the difficulty in making a living of cocoa farming has spawned an increase in child and even slave labour in West African producing countries. In 2001, the International Labour Organization and others reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, source of 43% of the world’s cocoa.
Fairtrade cocoa offers farmers an opportunity to make a real living, as the Fairtrade Standards include a minimum price. A Fairtrade Premium is added to the purchase price and is used by cooperatives for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment and loans to members.
(Fairtrade Labelling Organization)