Sunday, July 25, 2010

Enough Cacao Beans for Five Billion Chocolate Bars?

What's the story with the cocoa bean guy? Big screaming headlines around the world have been reporting on the mysterious hedge fund manager, Anthony Ward, who has really almost cornered the world market in cocoa. There are estimates that he has now stockpiled enough cocoa beans to make more than five billion chocolate bars.

Is he stockpiling cocoa in a bid to drive up already high prices so he can sell later at a big profit? Cocoa prices have now reached a 30-year high. Nobody knows exactly what he is doing, but chocolate manufacturers around the world are nervous. His private investment firm, Armajaro, now controls something like 7 percent of annual cocoa production worldwide. Armajaro maintains offices in West Africa, close to the source. Apparently the company name is an amalgam of the names of his and his business partner's four children. I wonder if he gives much thought to what he surely knows, that children in West Africa are performing slave labor to harvest a significant percentage of those cocoa beans?

True Confections was inspired by the troubling child slave labor on West African cacao plantations. From that issue grew my question: for whom would this be a moral dilemma? Who would be most personally confronted by this siuation? Someone with a chocolate candy factory. And from there came Zip's Candies and the Ziplinsky family. Who would tell the story, and why? From that question came Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, the insider-outsider narrator. Chocolate candy seems like such a manufactured product, we can forget that it is derived from nature, from a plant, and far too often, from an agricultural industry that mistreats children.

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