List cocoa country origin on pack — FEP

chocolateThe Food Empowerment Project has called on US chocolate makers to list cocoa country of origin on pack so consumers can avoid brands that use cocoa from West Africa, where it claims unlawful child labour is common.

“Child labour and slavery is taking place in West Africa and consumers have the right to know,” Lauren Ornelas, the executive director of Food Empowerment told confectionery news.

Her organisation has developed a list of recommended chocolate brands and other brands that it advises against. Its criterion is simple: If the Product uses cocoa sourced in West Africa then it can’t recommend the product.

The Food Empowerment Project recently succeeded in lobbying Clif Bar to reveal the originals of its cocoa. Clif Bar and company said recently that it sourced 100 per cent Rainforest Alliance cocoa from Cote D’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, China, Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania.

“Unfortunately they are sourcing from areas where child labour is common. We don’t feel comfortable with cocoa sourced in West Africa,” said Ornelas.

How common is child labour in West Africa

Over the 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa, mostly in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

According to a study by Tulane University, almost 820,000 children in the Ivory Coast and over 997,000 kids in Ghana were found to be working on coca related activities in 2007/2008.

Ornelas said that if studies found out that similar practices were widespread in other sourcing regions such as Latin American and Asia, her organisation would boycott chocolate altogether.

Only the worst forms of Child Labour are illegal

Child work is not forbidden in West Africa per se just as it is not forbidden in the United States.

Under US federal law, a 10-year old can be employed in non-hazardous work on a US farm with parental consent. Iowa is an exception and has no minimum age for post-time agricultural workers.

Similarly, the law in the Ivory Coast and Ghana do not prohibit children from helping out on farms, and does not also forbid forcing children to engage in dangerous activities such as carrying heavy loads and using machetes.

Paying a consumer living wage

Ornelas said child labour was a consequence of low-pay for cocoa farmers.

“The corporations are in a position to pay a living wage because they are making millions,” she said.

“They need to be sourcing from cooperatives where they are paying consumer living wages, she said.

She called for the industry to determine a fair living wage for cocoa farmers using a model similar to the decent living wage calculated by Asia Floor Wage Campaign for the Asian textile industry.

According to Fair-trade International, small family farms which account for 90 per cent of the world’s cocoa supply, general an average annual income of $30-100 per a household member in a cocoa year

Boycott will make things worse, says (ICI)

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), whose members include mars, mondelez, Hershey and Nestle, recently announced its 2015-2020 strategy that changes its approach to child labour in the cocoa sector. It focuses on treating the causes of child labour such as a child’s access to education, healthcare and basic nutrition, rather than simply removing a child found unlawfully working on farms.

Borjana Pervan, ICI’s head of communications, told this site that radical knee-jerk reactions that seek simplistic solutions would not resolve the complex challenges cocoa farmers face, since these can’t be neutralised by a small percentage increase in the cocoa price.

“In the absence of such a silver bullet, boycotting West Africa Cocoa will only make things worse,” she said.

“West African farmers are poor today and they will be poorer tomorrow if people stop buying chocolate made from their cocoa, it will merely drive them from poverty to destitution, or to other crops/activities that may have an even higher risk of child labour such as mining. Consumers need to be better informed about the issue of child labour and understand that it can’t be fixed overnight.”

 

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