Lets be frank, we are not talking about ‘forced labourers’ or ‘child labourers’, we are talking about slaves
January 21, 2012 § 3 Comments
Ten years ago a series of reports found that child labour was rife in the chocolate industry. Some of the world’s best known bands were using chocolate imported from farms using modern day slaves who had never known true freedom, let alone the taste of the chocolate they were harvesting.
This resulted in outrage in the US but no real policy came from this movement. Chocolate producers agreed to impose voluntary restrictions on the sorts of imports they made in an attempt to mitigate against ‘the worst effects’ of child labour.
This regulation has patently failed. The UN estimates that 150 million children are involved in child labour, that about 16% of 5-14 year olds.
Of course children are used across the board, not just by the chocolate industry, but a recent report estimates that 97% of chocolate farms in the Ivory Coast are untouched by regulation.
Kraft made this response to the findings:
“Kraft Foods is working with others in the industry supporting the Harkin-Engel Protocol to work towards elimination of the worst forms of child labor in the growing of cocoa beans.”
The problem may be even worse than these reports suggest as much of the work children do goes unseen. Estimates suggest that the majority of work that girls are forced into is domestic and so hard to measure.
What is clear is that the chocolate industry, like all industries which import from vulnerable regions have a responsibility to source their products from farms which are transparent about their employees. Furthermore merely saying that they are against child labour is not enough. They must be seen to be taking an active role in its reduction.