Chocolate: child trafficking, women harassment and hard work

Cocoa farmersThere is a multitude of chocolate products on the market: ice cream, cookies, hot chocolate or dark chocolate. But all these sweet chocolate delights require the hard work of more than 1.5 million farmers, mostly from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, who grow and then harvest cocoa beans. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two countries that produce more than half the world’s cocoa beans.

But this type of work has led to an increase in child trafficking and extremely difficult working conditions. According to a report released by Oxfam International, in 2009, along with Ivory Coast and Ghana, other countries which have similar problems are Indonesia, Ecuador and Cameroon.

Women, especially, get the worst paid jobs and they are harassed. “Most cocoa producers have never tasted chocolate,” write the authors of a report published in 2009.

The situation began to attract attention of chocolate lovers in the developed world. Big companies are starting to develop programs in this regard, Nestle and Mars already announced they will get involved in improving the working conditions of women in this industry. According to the same report, both companies have seen worrying statistics about the attention they give to these problems.

Both Nestle and Mars have their own programs for suppliers of cocoa, trying to end child exploitation, improve working conditions, implement best practices among farmers and, why not, to return to them part of the company’s profits. In 2012 Nestle earned $10.4 billion from the chocolate division.

China, India and Brazil, began to gradually develop a taste for sweet delicacies, but most of the world’s cocoa consumption, about 70% is in Europe and the United States. The production, for the most part, comes from West Africa. According to the International Cocoa Association, between 2002 and 2010, the rise in consumption of cocoa in Europe and the U.S. has led to an overall production increase of 46%, ie 337,000 tons of cocoa.

This increase in consumption has pointed to irregularities in the system, which, once made public through the media, have caused concern and forced many companies to begin to be more vigilant and take appropriate measures.