Cocoa talk kicks off Fairtrade Fortnight in Montrose

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight will kick off with a talk on cocoa.

On Thursday, February 26, at 7 p.m. in Montrose Academy the annual event will be marked by Montrose Fairtrade Forum with a talk on cocoa by Basilio Almonte from the Dominican Republic. He is an agronomist, and the technical manager at the CONACADO co-operative of cocoa farmers.

Although not a cocoa farmer himself, he has a detailed knowledge of the cocoa growing process and experience working with many cocoa farmers of how Fairtrade has benefitted them.

Fairtrade always operates through co-operatives, and CONACADO is made up of 182 small-scale producer associations with a total membership of 10,000 cocoa farmers.

Like ninety per cent of the world’s six million cocoa farmers they work in small family farms of about 10 acres.

Almost half the members’ production is now sold to the Fairtrade Foundation.

This has proved a great help since the Dominican Republic is the second poorest country in the Caribbean, with almost half the population of 10 million living below the poverty line.

‘Premium money’, the additional income from Fairtrade available to be spent by the co-operative, has greatly improved local education and health facilities. Chocolate is the major product from cocoa, a delicate and sensitive crop.

The international price of cocoa beans is rising in response to high demand, but cocoa farmers gain very little of this. The number of farmers is in fact falling, because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession.

The average age of a cocoa farmer is now 50.

At the Academy you can learn how you can ensure that one of the world’s favourite foods continues to be available for all.

After the talk and questions there will be he public annual general meeting when new committee members will be welcome, followed by Fairtrade drinks and nibbles and the chance to look at Fairtrade stalls.