The chocolate industry is one of the world’s most important agro-processing sectors. Its versatility of taste and presentation has won over many people around the world. Chocolate elicits a wide spectrum of positive emotions, whether it is consumed as a beverage, in a cookie, or in ice cream. It has also been promoted as a love and romance icon. Unbeknownst to us, the commodity that has been presented as the reincarnation of love and happiness is manufactured under inhumane conditions. Many steps take place before a bar of chocolate reaches the shelves of a supermarket or a candy store. The buyer, who is at the end of the chain, does not possess the ability to fully comprehend all the processes leading to its production.
There have been notions of modern day slavery in the production of chocolate (Gold et al. 489). This suspicion first arose from a 2000 report that cited the utilization of forced child labor on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The accusations shocked the whole world that in such a modern day and age, there would still be issues of slavery. The report suggested that the young individuals were being forced to work in the farms after being sold as slaves. Ivory Coast was not just another country growing the crop, but the leading producer of cocoa in the world.
All chocolate lovers were fanning this vice by their continued enjoyment of the delicacy. It was clear that the vice every stakeholder in the cocoa industry contributed to this vice ranging from the buyer in America, the manufacturing company in Europe, and the cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast. The issue is further made complex by the understanding that cocoa production is the major source of foreign revenue to West African gem. The issue, therefore, is a weighty and serious issue that cannot just be ignored. The report cited the smuggling of the young boys and girls aged between 12 and 16 from Mali to Ivory Coast to work on the cocoa farms day and night while enduring the inhumane conditions, in which they live. The horrifying factor is that the children were captured by being allured by the sweets. When the unknowing child falls into the trap, they are taken across the border, where they are sold for the cheap labor.
There exists a huge contrast between the working conditions that the young boys and girls persevere while working in the farms day and night against the joy and happens selected and associated with chocolate. It is a saddening factor that in modern day and age one would be talking about slavery. There are over 600,000 cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, where workers are mainly children. A large number of farms create a huge demand for labor that cannot be fully supported the local labor force.
It is saddening that most manufacturers have never visited the farms due to their remoteness. Famers are seeking to make maximum profits from cheap labor acquire young children to work on their farm (Alberts and Cidell 119). The children are poorly fed and overworked. They live in inhumane conditions that are deplorable. At night, the framers lock them in houses to prevent their escape.
The slavery in the cocoa industry has been attributed to several factors. The international price of cocoa in the commodity markets is highly unstable. The instability of its price further complicates the matter in the times of the high production. Mali, the Saharan country north of Ivory Coast, ranks itself as one of the economically poorest countries in the world providing available labor for the exploitation.
The Ivorian government is heavily dependent on its export of cocoa as a source of revenue. It is attributed of the fact that almost up to a third of the exports revenue generated by the country. This aspect means that the government is slow in developing policies. The latter may seem to be an extremely significant contributor as per reducing the productivity of the industry.
Culture has affected the development of this form of slavery. It is common for the children of a farmer to help in harvesting together with hired labor force. They, therefore, feel morally justified to use child labor, which reduces the cost of hiring. The government also does not follow up closely on these firms to identify such issues. This fact has greatly resulted in the rise of the child labor.
The polygamy structure of the local family also further complicates the matter. One does not have an ability to differentiate whether the farmer is working with his children or the forced laborers. The remoteness of the some of the areas in the northern Ivory Coast has less development, and therefore, the education has not been prioritized in the areas. This aspect means that parents do not seem to find the importance of sending their children to the schools.
Poverty has also had a huge impact on the moment of the people across the borders in the search of work. These are the ideal individuals, whom human traffickers are ready to pounce on (Doherty and Tranchell 168). When the issue was discovered, the Ivorian government went on the offensive to defend itself by citing the low global prices as the main cause of the problem. The rulers simply escape from their duties and impunity of the highest order.
There are separate groups that are calling for a change in this issue. Different human rights organization are calling for the labeling of the Ivorian cocoa as the one made by slave tag, which discourages the individuals from the consumption of the cocoa that is being delivered from the Ivory Coast. This solution presents a huge challenge, since it produces over 70% of the cocoa in the whole world. Undertaking such as stand will only result in the global price spike, as there will be a reduction in the supply of cocoa (Chanthavong 664). The country is using its huge market share in its endeavors to show and enforce the little change in the farms so as to preserve the revenue that are being widely generated from the export of cocoa.
The chocolate companies have a responsibility to the world to vet and monitor the production of cocoa in the farms. Some of the companies deny being aware of the predicaments in the farms. They take these steps to avoid being seen as if they are endorsing the use of child labor. However, even without their formal consent, purchasing of raw cocoa technically means indirect support of the evil. Manufacturing and processing factories have a huge role to play in the elimination of this vice. They can limit their purchases from Ivory Coast, unless human rights are observed in the farms.
Purchasing a product that has been produced through slavery is the same as endorsing slavery (Alberts and Cidell 119). These companies ought to form an alliance based on the farms that will be entitled to buy the raw cocoa and monitor these farms closely. The coalition should be firm in the process of purchasing the raw cocoa. Every farmer should be engaged in signing a commitment to use the recognized labor forms to reduce the use of child labor.
Random audit on the farms is necessary to ensure that they are committed to eliminating slavery. The international community should introduce sanctions on the Ivorian government to ensure its commitment to prevent slavery. The latter should be tasked to ensure tight border security. It will, in turn, have its impact of reducing the entrance of the unidentified individuals. Such actions will, as a result, diminish the activities of the human traffickers, who crisscross the border points at their own will (Doherty and Tranchell 171). Furthermore, the government should highly be committed to alleviating the economic levels of areas, where the farms are located. It is necessary for it to promote education in these areas.
Following these allegations, the industry was caught off-guard to its recklessness and carelessness in ensuring that its products meet the requirements of fair-trade. In the United States, for instance, the government threatened to introduce a ban on all products that have been produced through child labor. The chocolate brands should also be committed to the community development. It can be achieved through the development of community-based programs that are aimed at further improving the life of the locals (McCabe 62). These corporate social responsibilities will improve the commitment of the farmers in respecting labor roles.
The industry has since responded by developing by an accrediting process known as the Cocoa Industry Protocol. It provided the establishment of a framework of encouraging the farmers to depart from the illegal farming activities. It further emphasizes on the need for establishing the correct measures to end a child labor in the production of cocoa. The protocol was signed as a response to save the industry from the sanctions and to clear its image to the consumers. However, there still exists lack of enough transparency to identify the extent and the effectiveness of the protocol in stopping the child labor (Chanthavong 664). It is unfortunate, since they are able to mobilize the chain in stopping the vice, yet they are unwilling.
It is inhumane for these companies to continue purchasing cocoa that is produced through slavery. More and more consumers ought to be educated to desist and abandon these brands that contributing to the degradation of human rights. It is essential for government to force them to reveal the details of the labor utilized during harvesting cocoa. Foreign government ought to out rightly criticize the Ivorian government for giving a blind eye to the vice.
Alberts, Heike C., and Julie Cidell. “Chocolate consumption, manufacturing, and quality in Europe and North America.” Econ Chocolate, 119 (2015).
Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Côte d’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies, 664 (2002).
Doherty, Bob, and Sophi Tranchell. “New thinking in international trade? A case study of The Day Chocolate Company.” Sustainable Development, 13.3 (2005): 166-176.
Gold, Stefan, Alexander Trautrims, and Zoe Trodd. “Modern slavery challenges to supply chain management.” Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 20.5 (2015): 485-494.
McCabe, Maryann. “Fine chocolate, resistance, and political morality in the marketplace.” Journal of Business Anthropology, 4.1 (2015): 54-81.