“Chocolate Nations”

Ghana and Ivory Coast produce more than half of the cocoa beans used to make the world’s chocolate. But, despite supplying the key ingredient for a US$75 billion industry, West African cocoa farmers are mired in poverty. In Chocolate Nations, journalist Órla Ryan sets out to explain why.

She evokes the stark contrast between “mud dwellings and multinational profits”, but this is not simply a tale of greedy companies and exploited planters. Ryan explores how government corruption has historically prevented African smallholders from getting their fair share, and how recent developments, such as speculative trading on cocoa prices, have further depleted farmers’ incomes.

Ryan’s argument is too often lost amid a raft of statistics, but at its best the book is arresting and provocative. The author’s interviews with labourers movingly illuminate the struggles that lie behind an icon of western indulgence.

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa
Órla Ryan
Zed Books

— By David Evans


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2011