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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 by slavery."

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 day

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 enforced.

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 their income.

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: La Siembra Anti Slavery International


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 and check out 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 and

* 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 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  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 website.)


Deborah James, Fair Trade Director
Global Exchange
415.558.8682 ext.245
415.255.7498 fax 2017 Mission Street #303, San Francisco, CA 94110


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