Chocolate’s Dark Secrets

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th October 2014
Chocolate Week is the UK's biggest chocolate celebration and is happening from the 13th – 19th October. From restaurants creating chocolate inspired menus to The Chocolate Show in London we'll be bringing you all things chocolate. As part of 2014’s Chocolate Week, The Staff Canteen investigates the darker side of the cocoa industry. Cocoa_farmer_David_Kebu_Jnr_holding_the_finished_product,_dried_cocoa_beans_ready_for_export._(10687070725)The cocoa industry is hugely profitable. In 2012 alone, Europeans consumed over 1.7 million tonnes of cocoa and yet cocoa farmers are some of the poorest in the world. Cocoa harvesting is backbreaking and dangerous work. Harvesters in the Ivory Coast, wielding dangerous machetes, cut down cocoa pods and crack them open. The cocoa beans are then extracted, dried and bagged for sale. According to UNICEF, the shocking reality is that much of this work is done by children. Not all chocolate has a link with child labour but there is no question that it is a very serious problem. Every effort is being made to bring it to an end. The progress made by groups like Fair Trade, Nestlé, Callebaut and stopthetraffik.org in recent years has been impressive but the problem persists. In 2005, Callebaut launched their Quality Partner Programme in the Ivory Coast.  Today, approximately 31,800 farmers throughout the Ivory Coast participate in the programme. Since 2009, Callebaut has funded the construction of a secondary school, a multi-purpose education centre and eight community learning centres in the Ivory Coast. In its customer statement, Callebaut said:“We firmly believe that improving cocoa farmer livelihoods is imperative in the fight against abusive labour practices.”ruth hinks Ruth Hinks, the current UK World Chocolate Master and entrepreneur behind Cocoa Black, is an ambassador of the Callebaut Chocolate brand. She said: “There is still a long way to go. As with most social causes, change needs to be implemented across the entire supply chain from the cocoa grower and suppliers, through to the end consumer. “Ultimately, the consumer has to make the decision to support these initiatives through their choice of product and the price paid. This can best be achieved through education of all parties in the supply chain and effective product labelling.” The cocoa market is unusually volatile by modern standards. The price of cocoa beans can vary between £500 and £3,000 per ton while the overall value has more than halved since the 1980's. Major companies are able to protect themselves from price fluctuations by agreeing lucrative long-term contracts but farmers have no protection at all. UNICEF, the world's leading children’s charity, claims that ‘the mosaic of small-scale growers struggle to make ends meet’ and are forced to ‘rely on child labour to increase the family revenue.’ According to the multi-award winning 2001 documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation, over 90% of cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast used some form of slave labour. Kit KatsNestlé claim that, since 2012, they have helped 639 children reportedly linked with the cocoa industry and enrolled them in schools. They are also piloting schemes to help households cover the costs of sending their children to school in the Ivory Coast. Nestlé told The Staff Canteen: “As far as we are aware, we are the first organisation in the chocolate industry to introduce such a scheme. We will continue to grow this approach and are committed to transparency. We will continue to regularly publish updates on child labour and all of our work to make the cocoa industry more sustainable.” The Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960 and by 1979 had become the world’s largest cocoa producer. After ominous signs in the 1990’s, civil war erupted in 2002 and again in 2011. Political instability, damaged infrastructure and high levels of poverty continue to cause heartache in the country. Nevertheless, the Ivory Coast is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Raw cocoa beans account for a staggering 25% of exports and the country is responsible for over a third of the world’s cocoa. Abdul is 10 years old, a three year veteran of the job. He has never tasted chocolate.  Due to the hidden and illegal nature of people trafficking, it is almost impossible to gather statistics. According to a report by LexisNexis, between 300,000 and 1.8 million child labourers are working on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) prohibits work before the age of 15 so as not to hamper school attendance. Furthermore, the ILO outlaws ‘all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children.’ ILO regulations are allegedly broken on a daily basis in the West African cocoa industry. BBC Panorama claims that children are often trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso to work in the Ivorian forests. They are separated from their families, taken out of education and of course, they are not paid for their services. Farmers simply take children to avoid paying adults for their services. By western standards this is a horrific state of affairs but it is impossible for us to relate to the predicament cocoa harvesters find themselves in. Revenues are so miniscule that paying for labour is simply not an option. CHOCOLATE Fairtrade-logo Organisations like Fair Trade advocate the payment of higher prices to ensure that farmers and harvesters receive a fair price for their goods. The Fair Trade logo, displayed on several high-street favourites including Nestlé’s Kit Kat, is a guarantee that these criteria have been met in the production of the chocolate bar. The brand is hugely popular in the UK. At the time of writing there are 500 Fair Trade towns, 118 Fair Trade universities, over 6,000 Fair Trade churches and 4,000 Fair Trade schools. With this in mind, it would not be unfair to assume that products bearing the Fair Trade logo would have no connection with child labour in their supply chain. Fair Trade guarantees that for every tonne of cocoa sold on their terms, farmers’ organisations receive an additional $150 for community investment. The aim is to provide farmers with a fair price for their product, leading to a sustainable future and eradicating the necessity to resort to child labour. However, BBC Panorama alleged otherwise in its 2010 documentary Chocolate – The Bitter Truth. Panorama showed that due to a lack of administration in the supply chain, cocoa gathered illegally via child labour was sold in Europe as Fair Trade chocolate. This naturally caused controversy upon release but Fair Trade’s general response was not one of humiliation. The group actually welcomed the raised public awareness of the harsh reality of cocoa farming in West Africa. Fair Trade pointed out that, as only 1% of global cocoa is traded on their terms, it is almost impossible to guarantee a traffic-free supply chain. The likelihood is simple - we have all eaten chocolate produced on a supply chain linked with child labour. www.foodispower.orgStopthetraffik.org is also working hard to bring an end to human trafficking in the chocolate industry and note the fact that as consumers act we are seeing changes. Chocolate companies are responding to a public more aware of the situation and an ever-growing number of campaign groups. Verkade, Swiss Noir, Cadbury, Nestlé and Mars now supply us with stopthetraffik.org certified chocolate bars. The group has also identified six steps that chocolate companies should take to finally bring an end to child trafficking in the industry. You can see these here: http://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/page/chocolate-box The simple fact is that cocoa farmers are generally underpaid in a hugely profitable, demanding and western-orientated market. If farmers continue to be so blatantly underpaid, it could be some time before child labour is finally ridden from the industry. Ultimately, it is down to us, the consumers, to support these initiatives and bring an end to trafficking. By Tom Evans Tell us your views in the comment box below or tweet @canteentweets
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th October 2014

Chocolate’s Dark Secrets