Buying Chocolates for St Valentine’s Day?  Were They Produced by Cocoa Plantation Slaves in West Africa?

February 14, 2024

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Buying Chocolates for St Valentine’s Day?  Were They Produced by Cocoa Plantation Slaves in West Africa?  Cocoa is the essential ingredient for making chocolates.  A significant proportion of the world production of cocoa is grown and harvested on plantations by African slaves. These slaves are on cocoa plantations in remote rural areas in West Africa.  Some of the chocolate Valetine’s Day chocolates which we buy is made using slave cocoa.  The slaves are beaten by the overseer.  They are not fed properly.  They work long hours.  They are locked up in a slave barracks at night.  They are beaten and often killed if they try to escape. The problem for consumers is to know the difference between slave cocoa and free cocoa.  Obviously, no manufacturer labels its product as “Cocoa Grown With Slave Labor”. As a result of a Mission by one of the Society’s agents to West Africa, the Society is compiling a list of slave cocoa products. As a rule of thumb, the cocoa purchased by the more expensive chocolate manufacturers tends to be free cocoa.  However, there is an exception.  If the manufacturer experiences an unexpected surge in consumer demand and purchases cocoa on the spot market, there is a significant risk that a proportion of the purchase might have come from plantations in West Africa which grow and harvest cocoa using slaves. Conversely, as a general rule of thumb, there is a risk that the cheaper chocolates (which are often “No Label” brands and the like) have been manufactured using cocoa purchased on the spot market, a proportion of which may be slave cocoa. 

The preceding material in this report is based on a Mission to West Africa by the Society’s Secretary-General.

Since the end of the former civil war in Côte d’Ivoire (the largest exporter of cocoa with plantations were slaves work), exports from that country have increased and cocoa prices have increased, so that there has been an increase in the use of slaves on the plantations.  

Lindt.  Children in the Republic of Ghana in West Africa help produce cocoa for Swiss chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli, according to a recent report by Swiss public television, SRF. The company says that combatting child labour is a “top priority”.

The Society urges members to refrain from purchasing Lindt chocolates until the corporation is compliant with international standards. Source SRF Swiss Radio and Television Published January 10, 2024 (in German)  

Cadbury.  Cadbury has been accused of being involved in the use of child labor on cocoa plantaions in Ghana.

The Society urges members to refrain from purchasing Lindt chocolates until the corporation is compliant with international standards. Source SRF Swiss Radio and Television Published January 10, 2024 (in German)  

Eight men from the Republic of Mali have commenced a class action in a US federal court against Nestle, Cargill, Mars, Mondelez, Hershey, Barry Callebaut, and Olam.  The men allege in their claim that they were trafficked into slavery and forced to harvest cocoa in the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire. The claim alleges breaches of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, under which they agreed to end child labor by 2005.

In 2021 police arrested four slave traders and rescued 19 children in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa.  The children were being trafficked from the Republic of Burkina Faso.  The children were being transported from Korhogo to Aboisso, a coastal town known for its large cocoa plantations.  The children were aged between 12 and 17.  More than a million children are believed to work as slaves on cocoa farms in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.   In 2021 child laborers were been rescued by police from cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire.  The owners were arrested. “We conducted this operation this morning in the two major cocoa-producing cities, “ Police Commissioner Luc Zaka said. The children were shelling cocoa pods. In December 2019 Ivorian police rescued more than a hundred children from cocoa plantations during a similar operation in the east of the country. More than one million children work illegally on cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire, a figure that has been rising steadily over the last decade. Cocoa is used for the manufacture of chocolate, drinking chocolate and other chocolate drinks.

Continued exploitation of children in cocoa industry Read the BBC World Service report