The Bitterness of Cocoa

  For close to 20 years the issue of child labor and slavery has plagued the West African industry which produces around 66% of the world’s cocoa.In that time the development of the cocoa industry and the world clamoring for chocolate and cocoa products has resulted in the devastation of forests and the widespread use of dangerous chemicals. Not enough has been done by industry to effectively change the situation – in fact, it is now evident it may have gotten worse because of the current pandemic.

After two decades of failed interventions across the cocoa sector, poverty is still the daily reality for virtually all West African cocoa farmer families, child labor remains rife and old growth forests continue to be cleared to make way for cocoa production. That’s the key finding of the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report published this year.

The report finds that the industry continues to rely on vague rhetoric and voluntary programs that fall far short of the mark.With no penalties for non-compliance nor enforcement to meet targets, the bad actors higher on the supply chain are still failing to comply.Ironically, those at the bottom – cocoa farmers often living below the poverty line – regularly lose their sustainable cocoa certification if they do not comply with regulations.

Despite longstanding efforts to solve issues of injustice and unsustainability in the cocoa sector, farmers still do not have an appropriate  seat at the table. Instead, problems continue to be assessed using a top-down industry-based approach. .

As a result, the report recommends focusing both regulation and penalties on companies, rather than farmers forming new partnership agreements between producer and consumer countries that ensure both civil society and farmer groups have an adequate voice, and compelling chocolate companies to find ways to redistribute value along the supply chain so that farmers are guaranteed a living income.

The full 2020 Cocoa Barometer report can be read here.