Child Slavery…Did You Get Your Chocolate Bar For Free?

chocolate candyI’m a recovering chocoholic.  I broke my one chocolate bar a day habit while I was pregnant for my 2nd child.  By a strange course of mercy, I developed a strong dislike for chocolate while carrying that baby.  In fact, chocolate tasted like quinine.  I call it mercy, because aside from that change in my culinary tastes, I would have gained another 30+ pounds from my continued indulgence.

While struggling to break the habit of a chocolate bar a day..(or let’s be honest…more) I became aware of how powerful an addiction to anything can be. Anything that takes away your independent will to make a decision is a form of enslavement.  I was addicted to caffeine and breaking free would require the thing I craved to become a ‘bitter taste’ in my mouth.

In reality, the dark underground that swirls around the underbelly of the cocoa trade in some portions of the west African coast is also slavery…albeit a far more destructive form of human entrapment, the horrible reality of child enslavement.  Of the estimated 300,000 kids working in the cocoa plantations of sub Saharan Africa, approximately 6% of those employed in the Ivory Coast are suspected to be employed through slave labor. The actual numbers range from 12,000 ~ 15,000 kids in the nation of Ivory Coast alone.

According to this compendium of articles, Ivory Coast is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa.  It’s the place where the big players go to get their supplies.  A  2002 report by Oxfam indicates that companies like Argill, Cadbury, Hersheys and Nestle buy their cocoa from commodities exchanges where Ivory Coast cocoa is mixed with other cocoa and sold on the world market.

In a well researched article on CNN Money by Christian Parenti entitled “Chocolate’s Bittersweet Economy” Parenti highlights the enormity of the problem in a country which supplies about 70% of the worlds cocoa.  It is a complex issue which involves the role of government, world markets, big business, extreme poverty and yes…Slavery.

But, it also involves each of us…YOU & I the consumer of these products.  For in the final analysis the market determines the eventual course of most economic entities.  Although slavery is not legal, the practise continues to exist because in simple terms…it can.  Focusing attention and bringing the spotlight to bear exposes the truth in it’s harshest terms. 

A BBC report on Child Slavery points out that the problem is world wide and includes  Asia, the nation of Haiti, Africa, the Middle East and in some parts of South America.  It is not that parents do not love their children; in most cases they are forced to sell their children out of the desperation which comes with abject poverty.

BUT, we err if we sit back and pass judgement and merely look on with consternation.  Because, the system needs an outlet.  Apart from a buyer, the entire house of card collapses.  The price of cocoa on the world commodities market is based largely on the price the western world is willing pay for it’s insatiable desire for the product.  When farmers are not paid a fair wage for their labor and are exploited by middle men, we become a part of the problem.  When we open our eyes and determine to know WHO is behind the product that we are consuming, we enter into line with the solution.

So, every consumer and dollar is a player whether we mentally acquiesce to it or not.  Our delicously sweet chocolate bars may not be that cheap or sweet at all.  In fact, they may be closer to the taste of quinine than any of us ever imagined.  Just a thought…

Lola Audu

5 Responses to “Child Slavery…Did You Get Your Chocolate Bar For Free?”

  1. rebecca July 22, 2008 at 6:37 am #

    Wow! That’s bad news! 🙁 Luckily, chocolate is something I can eat sparingly, although I do love it.

    I will definitely search for responsible chocolate from now on!

  2. Lola July 22, 2008 at 9:29 am #

    Hi Rebecca, Here’s a link to a blog post about Socially Responsible Chocolate Bars…http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art2089.asp

    Apart from Newman’s line of chocolates, I was not aware of the other companies listed in the blog post. What makes this situation challenging is that chocolate from a number of different locations is mixed together and marketed around the world. It’s very hard to actually track. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Pamela July 25, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    Wow, do they have “Fair Trade” chocolate like Starbucks only sells “Fair Trade” coffee? Worth looking into.

  4. Thomas C Sanders Jr April 8, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    I like chocolate in a small way, but I’m not a fiend

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  1. how to trade commodities - July 22, 2008

    how to trade commodities…

    Cool Beans. After reading your blog I now understand “trade currency”. Thank For the great post!…

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