Chocolate’s dark truth

Organisations that campaign to end child slavery are reminding consumers to shop ethically this Easter.

They are also urging big chocolate brands to keep their promises to stop using child slavery in cacao agriculture, especially in the cocoa sector of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

According to international advocacy group Slave Free Chocolate: “[Chocolate] companies, including but not limited to Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Cargill, Cadbury, Mondelēz and Barry Callebaut, have admitted accountability and promised to remedy this situation.

“Sadly, 20 years has passed since this agreement and the numbers of exploited children has only increased.”

According to research published in March by the Australia Retailers Association in collaboration with Roy Morgan Research, total chocolate expenditure is expected to reach almost $1.5 billion this year.

Australians are expected to spend an average of $100 per person on chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs this year. Photo: Jess Rowe.

According to Slave Free Chocolate many cacao farmers are still receiving the same pay they have been receiving from the 1970s when they first stared to grow cacao.

During this time, farmers were able to make a living wage for their cacao as well as hire adult labour to work on their farms.

However, the price of cacao beans has not grown along with Western World inflation making it hard for farmers to hire adult help as claimed by Slave Free Chocolate.

Slave Free Chocolate director Ayn Riggs says cacao farmers make between 75 cents and $2 a day.

According to Ms Riggs, in order to survive, some cacao farmers are forced to put to work their own children.

Children in Ghana that were slaves in cacao agriculture. Photo: Supplied by Slave Free Chocolate/BBC.

“If they don’t have enough children or relatives [of their own], they might resort to purchasing a child,” Ms Riggs says.

“[These children] aren’t going to school at all. They have no access to medical care if they get injured. They are working with toxic materials, lifting weights too heavy for their frames.

“When I started Slave Free Chocolate 15 years ago the number of exploited children was 800,000 and now it’s 1.5 million. So, the situation has only gotten worse.”

Ayn Riggs

Ms Riggs says although Australians can donate to the farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, it is not something consumers can fix by themselves.

“The only ones that can fix this are the six or so giant companies that are continually working to keep the price of beans low,” she says.

Ms Riggs says consumers must educate themselves and put pressure on chocolate companies to fulfil their promises.

“Write [to] them that ‘enough is enough’ and you as a consumer are demanding real decisive change and will not listen to the public relations tactics.”

Western Independent contacted Cadbury for a statement, however, the company did not respond by deadline.

Cadbury Easter eggs. Photo: Jess Rowe.

Slave Free Chocolate not only brings awareness to companies using child slavery but also campaigns for chocolate companies who do ethically source their cacao.

Cacao Medium is a Western Australian fair trade chocolate company that sources ethical cacao.

Cacao Medium owner Jane Sawicki says: “My Peruvian [cacao] is organic and fair trade which I use to make my chocolates.”

Ms Sawicki avoids sourcing chocolate from areas where slave labour is prevalent.

“70 per cent of [Western Australia’s] chocolate on the market is unfortunately made from cheap slave labour, and this cacao is usually sourced across the Ivory coast and Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire,” Ms Sawicki says.

Peruvian cacao is collected from a range of centres across the Peruvian Valley, where the majority of cacao is from the Awajun and Ashaninka farmers.

The Awajun people who farm the cacao for Cacao Medium. Photo: Supplied by Cacao Medium.

In these farms there is a social responsibility program in place to ensure farmers are given fair price for their beans and that their communities benefit through the funding of community projects.

“I am only a very small business so I do my best to make chocolates for my local community here in the Great Southern region of Western Australia,” Ms Sawicki says.

Ms Sawicki says her conscious would not allow her to source cacao where children were forced to work in agriculture.

“When I discovered children were harmed to make chocolate that I loved to eat every day, as a mother this was heartbreaking and unacceptable,” Ms Sawicki says.

“We can make a difference just by how we spend our money.”

Ms Sawicki recommends other ethical brands where she cannot fill the gap. Those include Alter Eco, Organic Times, Loving Earth.

Categories: General