To the extent we are able to, we source grower direct. We want a relationship with our growers and we want them to have a relationship with us and our chocolate.
We do this for a number of reasons. Grower direct means that the money we pay stays in the grower's pocket. Because it is a high end product we can pay a premium to the bulk market. It is important that grower's develop a sustainable livelihood – not just on social equity principles but the surplus income allows them to stick with their existing sustainable practices and invest in higher quality fermentation and drying equipment to achieve the quality standards required.
To achieve the quality standards required by the craft chocolate maker can deliver a substantial price premium compared to the bulk market.
Cacao growers in subsistence agricultural systems are important for the planet. Theirs is not the world of the corporatized estates often characterized by the clear felling of native timber and planting to monoculture crops. The majority of the growers have farms of acreages in single digits and rely on organic permaculture practices with a wide mixed variety of trees, shrubs, vegetable crops and grazing animals. A closed system of sustainability that generates its own fertility without external additives. In contrast to the agricultural systems of the rest of the world, soils in these systems increase in structure, carbon content and soil microbiology.
We do not insist on third party certifications in the form of say Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance, etc as in some cases the insistence on compliance with these systems has created a perverse incongruity – the most impoverished of growers and often those adhering to the most sustainable and traditional practices are not in a position to pay the cost of accreditation. In some cases growers future viability is threatened by over reliance by first world consumers on the dubious benefits of an externally imposed regime that in its compliance requirements excludes the most vulnerable and marginalized of third world subsistence farmers.
We do however go to lengths to understand and review the sustainability of our growers’ practices and to ensure a long-term farming model. The fact is that the average price we pay for cacao very significantly exceeds the pricing levels dictated by the existing certified schemes.