Why A Sweet Chocolate Bar Could Be Leaving A Bitter Taste In Your Mouth
“When people eat chocolate they are eating my flesh.”
This is what Drissa, a former cocoa slave, said when describing his bewilderment at the joy consumers get from eating a product he was beaten and suffered for. Cocoa plantations in West Africa are rife with children being enslaved and exploited. Discussed in my last blog was how farmers do not get sufficient value for their crop, leading them to abandon the industry and invest in more lucrative plants. This has contributed a shortage in cocoa supply, but there is a much darker consequence to the low profits cocoa farmers are seeing. In order to keep their prices competitive they’re resorting to child labor and slavery.
Working on a cocoa plantation is a very difficult and dangerous environment for children. They’re required to climb the trees, hack down the cocoa pods with machetes and split those pods open with the same weapon. They’re forced to carry or drag heavy bags of pods and beans, that are often bigger than themselves and if at any point they are deemed to be taking too long or not doing a good enough job, they are beaten. The Dark Side of Chocolate is a film which exposes the conditions and experiences children in the Ivory Coast plantations endure. It also shows attempts to approach large chocolate manufacturers to discover how they are tackling this issue.
There have been many attempts to persuade the giant companies in the chocolate industry to practice fair trade and ensure their beans come from a reputable and slave-free source, however little has actually been done. There’s a high demand for inexpensive chocolate in the developed world and the competitive market between cocoa farmers means low costs and high profits for companies who are willing to take advantage of that. Corporations claim that it is impossible to be sure where their cocoa beans originate from and therefore difficult to know whether child labor is involved. But child slavery is a well-documented fact in West Africa, which is where most of the big chocolate companies source their beans from. It’s an unavoidable fact that even with Fair Trade certificates it is impossible to know if child labor was involved in the product you buy, which is why many advocate boycotting any product where the cocoa beans are sourced from West Africa.
You see, the key to ending slavery is consumer awareness. The shorter the supply chain, the easier it is to identify where and how the product was made and ensure it is ethically sourced. Bean-to-bar producers and direct trade producers know where their cocoa beans are coming from. Their small-batch chocolate is produced by chocolate makers who have searched out cocoa farms that provide fair employment and ethical work practices to ensure their workers are happy and the beans they supply are of high quality. A great example of such a bean-to-bar company is our Chocolate Maker of the Month, Woodblock Chocolate, who made it a priority to visit the farms and check out its production line, as well as the living and working conditions of the workers. All of the chocolate makers who contribute to Cococlectic’s Chocolate Collection know where their beans are coming from and are dedicated to ensuring they maintain the most ethical and shortest supply chains possible.
Cococlectic is determined to make sure your ‘guilty pleasure’ doesn’t leave you guiltier than you know. So check out the delicious small-batch chocolates we sell from a variety of bean-to-bar producers and help support the side of the chocolate industry who is dedicated to preventing and dismantling the practice of child slavery.