For the last twenty years the issues of child slavery and deforestation has plagued the West African industry which produces around 66% of the world’s cocoa. Despite industry promises, during that time the continued demand for chocolate and cocoa products has allowed these immoral practices unchecked. Nowm according to the 2020 Cocoa Barometer a report published this year, the situation may have worsened as a result of the Covid 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.
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 promises to solve issues of injustice and unsustainability in the cocoa sector, farmers still do not have an appropriate seat at the table and 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 on farmers and on forming new partnership agreements between producer and consumer countries that will ensure that human rights are respected, environmental laws are obeyed, and small farmers are guaranteed a living income.
The full 2020 Cocoa Barometer report can be read here.