Friday, April 8, 2011

Ivory Coast: Think chocolate, war, child slave labor, inflation

Flickr/International Labor Rights Fund
Young boys harvesting cocoa in the Ivory Coast.
America's favorite dessert ingredient is in jeopardy. The Ivory Coast, which is at war, is the world's largest producer of chocolate. The top three chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury, Hershey's and Nestle, all purchase their cocoa from the Ivory Coast and buy cocoa futures and options through the Euronext stock exchange, where the world's chocolate prices are set.

That's going to hurt your Easter candy budget and your daily pocketbook as the price of cocoa starts to soar, not only due to war, but due to the general public's realization that the cocoa farms have been using child slave labor.

It shouldn't really be news. In 2001, the report "A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted" claimed that slave trafickers lure children with the promise of paid work, housing and education but then forcibly hold and abuse these children on farms, forcing them to labor up to 100 hours per week. Attempted escapees were rewarded with severe beatings.

The same year, the BBC reported 15,000 slave children from Mali, some under age 11, were abducted to the Ivory Coast chocolate farms. Mali's Save the Children Fund director described "young children carrying 6 kilos (about 12 lbs.) of cocoa sacks so heavy that they have wounds all over their shoulders."

Still in 2001, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association finally acknowledged that slaves harvested some cocoa. Even one ounce harvested by slaves is too much. And child slavery ... well that just makes chocolate taste too bitter.

Neena Rai and Caroline Henshaw of the Dow Jones Newswire reported Wednesday, "Dealers fear output from the world's largest cocoa producer may fall next year from a bumper 1.3 million tons this season as the fallout of a bloody power struggle has hindered farmers' access to financing and displaced up to a million people."

Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, or any day, you'll start paying more for your love of chocolate.

  • In more cheerful blog news, be sure to enter the giveaway of The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss.
  • You're invited to join me for Monday Mmm ... Dessert by linking your dessert recipes to this new dessert linky this Monday, April 11th, and every Monday.
  • This is the last official day of the Ultimate Blog Party where you can discover new blogs of all categories.

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