Chocolate and Child Slavery?

Chocolate, by in large, is grown in some low-income parts of the world. The Theobroma Cacao tree only thrives within about 12 degrees of the Equator, and is cultivated largely in South America and Africa. This presents chocolate producers with some of the same environmental, fair-trade, and labor issues that the coffee industry has dealt with. (Thus the increasing number of chocolate products that feature fair-trade, organic, or shade-grown designations.) The most disturbing are the persistent reports of child slavery used in the cultivation of cacao, particularly in Ivory Coast, one of the largest producers in the world, accounting for about 43% of the world cacao crop. A 2002 report from the American University Trade Environment Database detailing the conditions in Ivory Coast, paints a pretty depressing picture.

There are reasons to believe that the situation may be getting better. The World Cocoa Foundation has started a program to certify various countries as not using slavery, and Ghana now has a certification. However, even very recent news articles attest to the fact that human trafficing is still an active practice in this area. It’s often difficult to discern the truth when it comes to super-heated issues like this, but there seems to be a preponderence of evidence here that a huge fraction of the cheap bulk chocolate used around the world comes with a heavy moral price.

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