A Fairer Halloween: What You Need to Know About Chocolate
During Halloween, we tend to eat a lot more chocolate than usual. While we reap the benefits, however, many cocoa producers live in abject poverty. In many cases, producers are forced to rely on child labour and even on child trafficking.
Where does chocolate come from
Recently, due to recent studies emphasizing the health benefits of cocoa consumption, consumer demand for chocolate has been increasing.
The cocoa needed to meet this demand can only grow in certain environments. Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana alone are responsible for half of the world’s cocoa production. Despite being an important source of income for these countries, many of the producer communities see very little of the profits.
Do to their lack of market knowledge and inability to deal directly with commodity markets, small cocoa farmers are often disadvantaged when selling their crops. As such, they are left to deal with middlemen who often take advantage of the farmers’ lack of resources. Other problems farmers face may include: high costs of production, poor organizational structures, and lack of access to financing to expand their operations.
The dark side of chocolate
If the cost of production is too high compared to the price they receive, disadvantaged farmers often can’t afford to pay their workers decent wages. In many cases, they must rely on the help of children, which in many cases, puts them exposes them to hazardous working conditions. In worst-case scenarios, farmers will resort to using trafficked children.
In these situations, children as young as eight years are trafficked across borders to work in cocoa fields for little to no wages. These children endure dangerous working conditions, such as carrying heavy loads, and working with pesticides and chemicals without receiving proper garments or training. It is hard to imagine that by enjoying Halloween chocolates one can actually be promoting the use of child slavery!
A need for certification
In March, 2011, the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University conducted a follow-up study covering initiatives aimed at improving labour standards in the chocolate industry. The report not only identified that child labour is still an issue in the industry, but that ethical sourcing standards such as with Fairtrade certification are an important strategy in solving the problem.
As consumers, we can support the Fair Trade chocolate industry to help improve the conditions of impoverished cocoa farmers and their villages and to eradicate the use of child slavery. Not only does Fair Trade guarantee minimum prices as well as social premiums paid to invest in producer communities, but it also ensures that producers have the means to pursue ethical labour practices.
Show your support
There are now a number of Fair Trade chocolate products available. In fact, you can find Fairtrade certified chocolate in just about any store across Canada.
Help keep kids safe this Halloween, in your own community and around the world! By buying Fair Trade chocolate we can help curb the use of child labour and trafficking. Look for the Fairtrade Mark on the wrapper!
Another step you can take for Fair Trade is to join in a fabulous Fair Trade Costume Contest!
Author: Belinda Chen
Date of publication: Wednesday, October 10, 2012