Easter is such a beautiful time of year – no matter what your religious beliefs. A long weekend with family, holidays, Easter egg hunts and an abundance of chocolate puts a smile on just about anyone’s face. But this Easter, when chocolate bunnies were being frivolously exchanged between three generations of my family – I couldn’t help but feel saddened by the thought of where the chocolate came from.
You see, I’ve spent the last few months researching the cocoa industry and sourcing ingredients for The Social Cup’s new ethical hot chocolate collection – and although I always knew that there were serious problems in the cocoa industry - I was not prepared for what I would find. The cocoa industry is riddled with child labour, exploitation, and slavery. It's bad.
Similar to tea and coffee, cocoa is mostly grown in areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America – where people are living in extreme poverty. Poverty and desperation inevitably invites exploitation.
Let’s use Ivory Coast (largest cocoa producing country in the world) as an example. Workers on cocoa plantations here often earn less than $2 per day – which is an income below the poverty line. For families to survive they need to enlist the help of their children to work on the farm for additional income. Children earn less – sometimes $1 a day – but that $1 determines whether or not there will be food on the table.
When children work on the plantation they are missing out on a valuable education that could enable them to follow a different career path. They are unskilled and only employable for hard labor. They predictably grow up to work on the same cocoa farms - in the same unbearable conditions – and the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage continues.
But that’s not all….
Cocoa is primarily an export crop, and as the chocolate industry grows so does the demand for cheap cocoa. The families of the workers are not producing enough cocoa for the demand coming from the West and the farmers are looking for more workers. Traffickers are buying children from desperate parents in neighbouring countries under the guise of a well-paying job and an education, and forcing these children to work on cocoa plantations in conditions nothing short of SLAVERY. It may be years before these children are reunited with their families, if ever.
This is not uncommon – in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone there is an estimated 2 MILLION children currently engaged in child labour on the cocoa plantations. It’s everywhere. And unless you - and your families, co-workers, and friends - have been extremely mindful in your Easter purchasing this year I can almost guarantee you that there has been some form of child exploitation within the supply chain of your chocolate. Sounds horrific doesn’t it? Our desire for cheap and readily available chocolate is causing innocent children to be trafficked and abused.
So what can we do?
The good news is that there are some brands committed to only sourcing ethically produced cocoa – so it is still possible to have your chocolate fix without children being harmed in the process! Below are some simple tips.
- Educate yourself on different chocolate brands here: http://stopthetraffik.com.au/chocolate/
- Do some research to see whether your favourite chocolate is made with certified cocoa ie. Fairtrade certified or UTZ certified. Certifications are a good indicator of an ethical supply chain.
- Buy chocolate from a small business with a direct relationship with the cocoa producers. We love Australian brand Spencer Cocoa https://www.spencercocoa.com.au/ who work with small family farmers in Vanuatu.
- Boycot any brand that received a C, D, or F rating on this list: http://guide.ethical.org.au/guide/browse/guide/?type=126
I didn’t want this article to be a massive dampener on your beautiful Easter weekends but just like my family were shocked to hear the facts behind the egg – I thought that there may also be some readers who are blissfully unaware of the issues saturating the cocoa industry. Exploitation in the supply chain happens when consumers either don’t know or don’t care about the abuse – and I’m pretty sure everyone reading this cares about children in the cocoa farms.
It’s not hard to ensure your chocolate is slavery-free. It may be a little more expensive – but it’s supposed to be a treat anyway right? I’m personally committing to only buying chocolate from smaller ethical brands which is not only delicious and guilt-free but it will make me feel good knowing that I am supporting smaller businesses and families in the process. Double the delight. :-)