Wednesday, May 09, 2001
Straight Goods (Canada)
Is your chocolate slave trade or fair trade? How guilty choco-holic
consumers can do their bit to end slavery
By: Carole Pearson
Chocolate - one of life's guilty pleasures. But recent reports
of child slave labour on African cocoa plantations have given
the guilt aspect a whole new meaning.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadians purchase 6.7 kilograms
of chocolate per person each year. Still, we fret because eating
too much chocolate is fattening. Here's a more somber concern.
An article by the London Daily Telegraph's Rachel Baird warns,
"Up to 40 percent of the chocolate we eat may be contaminated
Ivory Coast is the world's biggest producer of cocoa beans with
over a million cocoa farms and plantations. A British TV documentary,"Slavery,"
claims 90 percent of Ivory Coast cocoa plantations use slave labour.
Most are young men and boys from impoverished areas in Benin,
Togo and Mali. They are enticed by traffickers who promise them
paid work, housing and an education. Instead, they are sold to
Ivory Coast cocoa plantation owners who beat them into submission
and offer no pay for grueling, 18-hour days.
Men and boys from Benin, Togo and Mali are lured by traffickers
with promises of paid work, who then sell them to Ivory Coast
plantations where they're beaten and forced to work 18 hours a
After "Slavery" was televised in Britain last fall,
horrified consumers bombarded the country's biggest chocolate
manufacturers - Cadbury, Nestle and Mars - with demands for "clean
products" which are untainted by slave labour.
Big companies, like Nestle, purchase their cocoa on international
exchanges where cocoa from Ivory Coast is mixed with cocoa from
other countries and loses its identity as a slave-made product.
Anti Slavery International says, "Because of the way the
chocolate industry buys its cocoa it is not possible to ensure
that slave or other forms of illegal exploitation have not been
used in its production." It says companies should purchase
direct from plantations so they can ensure international labour
standards are met. If they continue to buy their cocoa via the
exchange or other middlemen, they should work with cocoa-producing
countries such as Ivory Coast to ensure the labour standards are
If chocolate manufacturers fail to respond, Anti Slavery International
offers this recommendation: "In the absence of industry action,
the only way consumers can be confident the produce they use is
free from exploited labour is by buying products which carry a
fair trade label."
Consumers should ask firms, 'What are you doing to ensure your
chocolate doesn't have any slavery in it?'
What does the fair trade label mean? Organizations like the U.K.'s
Fair Trade Foundation and TransFair Canada certify products which
meet the principles of the fair trade system. Fair trade means
products are purchased directly and at a fair price from small
family growers and co-operatives that do not rely on hired or
illegal forced labour. Growers receive a minimum guaranteed price
that covers real production costs, regardless of how low world
market prices fall.
Fluctuating prices on the world commodity markets give cocoa
producers a precarious existence. The flourishing child slavery
trade in Ivory Coast is partly a result of cocoa producers being
desperate for cheap labour to work on the plantations. On the
New York Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange, cocoa prices dropped
from a high of $US1800 per tonne in 1997 to $US982 on April 6
of this year. Fair trade producers are still paid $1750 per tonne,
protecting them against financial insecurity.
TransFair Canada has concentrated on promoting certified fair
trade coffee. It is now working with the Ottawa-based La Siembra
Co-operative to establish methods of certifying fair trade cocoa.
This will bring Canadian chocolate lovers one step closer to making
a guilt-reduced choice.
La Siembra is the only Canadian importer of fair trade cocoa.
The cocoa used in their Cocoa Camino brand products comes directly
from small family farms in Latin America and the Caribbean. Co-op
member Jeff DeJong emphasizes their products are also organic
and shade grown. "It's the way to go, we think," he
says. "It gives consumers a positive alternative."
Fair trade also promotes sustainable agricultural practices which
use minimal or no pesticides. On small, family-owned farms, cocoa
plants are usually inter-cropped. In Ghana, for example, farmers
also plant plantains, maize and spices which provide shade and
provide up to 65 percent of the family's food supply and supplement
In contrast, Ivory Coast plantations utilize intensive farming
techniques which boosted cocoa production by 95 percent in the
1980s. More and bigger plantations have caused Ivory Coast rainforests
to be literally slashed from 12 million hectares in 1960 to 2.6
million hectares today, devastating the area's biodiversity.
Certified fair trade chocolate may be the ethical choice but
it's not readily available to Canadians. La Siembra plans to import
fair trade organic chocolate bars from Europe later this year.
Meanwhile, chocolates from Nestle, Cadbury, Mars and Hershey remain
consumer favourites but people can still let the companies know
about their concerns. To help remove some of the guilt, "Slavery"
producer Brian Woods advises, "Consumers should ask firms,
'What are you doing to ensure your chocolate doesn't have any
slavery in it?'"
For further information, view: www.channel4.com/slavery/slavery.html
La Siembra www.lasimebra.com Anti Slavery International www.antislavery.org
Fair Trade for African Cocoa Farmers
Would you like to promote economic justice and raise money for
your school or group at the same time? The Divine Chocolate Fundraising
Project is a unique international partnership between 30,000 cocoa
farmers in Ghana, West Africa, and you! Every time you sell
a Divine Chocolate bar, low-income cocoa farmers in Ghana not
only receive a fair price for their cocoa beans, but as part owners
of the Day Chocolate Company, they receive their share of the
profits. The cooperative, Kuapa Kokoo, use their profits to
fund projects of direct benefit to the cocoa farmers and the wider
community, such as scholarships and clean drinking water wells.
Did we mention that this is great chocolate, made for us by a
European family-owned company that has been in the chocolate business
for generations? The hand-picked cocoa beans from Ghana (considered
by many the best in the world!) are blended with a touch of vanilla
from Madagascar, beet sugar, and pure milk. The result is a delicious,
rich and creamy chocolate bar.
Contact SERRV at 1-888-294-9657 email@example.com
and check out www.serrv.org
for more information.
Great Fundraiser. Great Cause.
With Divine Chocolate, you can...
* Help low-income farmers in Ghana and
* Support your school or club and
* Promote social and economic justice through alternative trade
* Educate your students on global issues.
Where to find Fair Trade chocolate in the US:
1. Try SERRV, info above, a 100% Fair Trade importer that is
promoting Fair Trade Divine chocolate from Ghana, particularly
for use as a fundraiser. The chocolate is quite good!! Check out
Also check out http://www.divinechocolate.org for more information
on the cooperative and the company that makes the chocolate.
2. Also Global Exchange sells a good amount of Fair Trade chocolate
on our webstore (as well as our regular stores in the Bay Area)
for chocolate bars or http://store.globalexchange.org/gbch.html
for chocolate gift baskets
3. There is also a great Canadian cooperative called La Siembra
that sells Fair Trade cocoa and other chocolate products under
the name Cocoa Camino - even the sugar is Fair Trade. (GX sells
both Divine chocolate and Cocoa Camino/La Siembra cocoa on our
Deborah James, Fair Trade Director
415.255.7498 fax 2017 Mission Street #303, San Francisco, CA 94110