Years ago, I saw a documentary about West African cocoa farmers and I still remember the looks of amusement from the farmers when the reporter showed them a chocolate bar. It was the first time they saw or tasted chocolate. Sadly when told of the price of the chocolate, they realised that they would not be able to afford it. The market price of the cocoa barely covers their costs.
It is quite difficult to imagine Easter in Australia without
chocolate eggs as they are part of the tradition to give, share and eat chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, or chocolate lambs at Easter. Last year, Australians spent over $200 million dollars on chocolates.
For over fifteen years, the campaign to remind us of our responsibility as consumers and purchase fair trade and slave-free chocolates has become almost part of the Easter tradition. The good news is that we have made some progress in encouraging chocolate manufacturers to take responsibility for reducing human trafficking, child and labour abuse in cocoa farms, especially
in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (Africa). Thanks to the advocacy of consumers, all of the major chocolate companies have signed a Code of Conduct “promising to protect the environment, the human rights and the labour conditions of suppliers.”
The 2017 document “A Matter of Taste” by Stop the Traffik reports the progress that these major companies are achieving to end human trafficking and child labour in their supply chain. Below is a graphic summary of what they have achieved and what is still not happening.
It is heartening to see the actions that these companies have taken, especially in increasing access to children’s education and
providing programs to increase cocoa yield. However, it is striking that no company has made a commitment to ensuring a living income for the farmers. According to CocoaBarometer, for every tonne of cocoa beans, farmers receive only 6.6% of the final price. It is ironic that the increased yield has resulted in a decrease in the price of cocoa by 30-40%.
We know all too well, in the situation of our dairy farmers for example, that if left to market forces alone with their inherent inequalities, small farmers bear the risk of price volatility. Sometimes it costs more to grow cocoa than its market value thus leaving the farmers worse off and struggling with poverty.
If we are to eradicate human trafficking and child labour in this industry, much more needs to be done, beginning with reducing poverty. Cocoa farmers need to have an adequate wage that enables them to live and educate their children. Poverty remains the key driver of the use of child labour.
This Easter continue to buy slave-free chocolate even if they cost more. Send a note to your favourite chocolate company and advocate that they commit to ensuring a living wage for their cocoa farmers.
‘To get to sustainable we’ve got to triple or quadruple the income. That’s the harsh reality of what is needed to get to a living income.’
– Barry Parkin (Chairperson, WCF and Mars Global Procurement)
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Words: Sr Janet Palafox ibvm