Leticia's blog / Love Letter

Heart Shaped
Blog by Oxfam
Publicado: 14th Febrero 2024

Dear chocolate lovers,                       

Happy Valentine! I hope you get to spend this special day with your loved ones, celebrating the love with your favorite chocolates and other sweets. My name is Leticia A Yankey, a cocoa farmer from Ghana. I'm writing you this love letter, from Amsterdam where I'm attending the Amsterdam Cocoa Week from 6-11 February 2024.

At this conference, I have the chance to meet with various stakeholders in the cocoa industry. I also got to learn how big and profitable the global chocolate industry is for companies here in Europe. Many influential actors in the industry are discussing the various problems faced by the cocoa sector, but rarely from a farmer’s perspectives, let alone that of a woman farmer. Together with other cocoa farmers from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Latin Americas, I'm here to represent cocoa farmers’ voices. Even though we play an important role as the frontline actor in the global chocolate production, our voices and problems are rarely heard by the industry.

Often times, they only blamed us for major problems that have been exposed like deforestation and child labor. As a cocoa farmer, I can say that this is not the case. As a parent myself, I know that all cocoa farmers love their children and we would never want to jeopardize their childhood. I also believe that as most farmers grew up in rural parts of the country close to forest and nature reserve, they never wanted to destroy their forest and environment. This happened as symptoms of one major problem that all cocoa farmers are facing: unfair pricing. As farmers, we don’t have the power to determine the price of our cocoa beans. It can even occur that the production cost to grow and harvest cocoa is higher than the sales of our cocoa beans. The little profits that we gain is barely enough to feed our family. On top of this, there is big pressure to always produce as many cocoa beans as possible without taking into account the risks that farmers are facing. This pressure could have led uninformed farmers to encroach forest areas and seek informal help from their family members.

Being in Europe around the Valentine celebration, I also get to see how chocolate products are being marketed. Heart-shaped chocolates are everywhere, in supermarkets, drugstores and cafés. It feels great to see how the end products of our cocoa is consumed in abundance and integrated with your culture here. I can feel the European love for chocolate is in the air! 

But did you know that while you are enjoying chocolate to celebrate Valentine's Day, chocolate companies are earning such big profits? Last year, the two biggest family-owned chocolate companies’ fortunes have risen up to $39 billion (equivalent to over €33 billion). They now have a combined net worth of around $157 billion (equivalent to over €139 billion).

We are glad that chocolate companies who are buying our beans are making profits. But we would be happier if they also share their profits with us by buying our cocoa beans at a fair price, as well as sharing the risks together. We deserve a living income, allowing us to make a sustainable living from our cocoa farming. I take pride in being a cocoa farmer and love the work as much as you love your chocolates! We hope you could also share your love of chocolates with us and cocoa farmers in other producing countries. Please share this love letter with your family and friends. Love is also about solidarity. I believe that the more consumers are informed about the truth behind chocolate productions, the more support farmers will receive in their fight for a fair price. Spread the love, and spread the message!

With love,