Valentines Special: The Dark side of sweetness
By Prabalta Rijal
Feb 13, Oslo: As the world marks Valentines day, Chocolate and candy sales reach profits of over $1,011 billion.In the US alone people spend over $345 million dollars worth of chocolate heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and chocolate roses on Valentines day each year.
And according to a survey done in the US 58 million pounds of chocolate candy was purchased the week before Valentine's Day. In addition to the $345 million spent on chocolate for Valentine's Day, an additional $103 million will be spent on other Valentine's Day candies like candy hearts and over 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be purchased for Valentine's Day sweethearts. However, has anyone stopped to think where all this chocolate is coming from?
Over 70 percent of world's supply of cocoa comes from South Western parts of Africa where children work on the plantation. Children in these parts of Africa are surrounded by poverty and often have to either drop out of school to help their parents in the family run cocoa farms, or are sold to traffickers who in turn sell them to large cocoa farm owners who force them to work in farms for no pay at all.
Approximately 1.8 million kids work in the cocoa fields of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. And child trafficking has become rampant in these countries due to poverty.
One such child is Muhammad, a 12-year-old boy in Ivory Coast who started working on a cocoa farm when he was 9 but he has never actually tasted chocolate. "I was made to work for 12 hours straight, and would have wounds on my shoulders while transporting the sacks of Cocoa," he said. Children like him are forced to work for 80-100 hours a week, and there were times he would have to work without food.
According to food empowerment project, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income below the poverty line. As a result, they often resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive. Like Muhammad, former cocoa slave Aly Diabate has told the media that beatings were a part of his life, “The beatings were a part of my life. I had seen others who tried to escape. When they tried, they were severely beaten. Drissa, a recently freed slave who had never even tasted chocolate, experienced similar circumstances. When asked what he would tell people who eat chocolate made from slave labor, he replied that they enjoyed something that he suffered to make, adding, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh,"
In September 2014 a lawsuit was filed against eight chocolate giants including Mars, Nestle and Hershey. All the lawsuits, had been filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by cocoa suppliers in West Africa while falsely portraying themselves as socially and ethically responsible. "America's largest and most profitable food conglomerates should not tolerate child labor, much less child slave labor, anywhere in their supply chains," the complaints stated according to a report by courthouse news service.
Over a million children in these parts of Africa have suffered the "worst forms of child labor" - using dangerous tools, transporting heavy loads and being exposed to pesticides and according to a 2015 report by Tulane University sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. "Children that are not even 10 years old carry huge sacks that are so big that they cause them serious physical harm."Much of the world's chocolate is quite literally brought to us by the back-breaking labor of child slaves."
Despite the fact that the raw materials for chocolate come from backbreaking child labor, Chocolate companies have done nothing to prevent child labor in cocoa farms and due to high levels of poverty children are forced to live a life of slavery for the production of the world's most delicious produce-Chocolates.
Happy Valentines Day!
The Oslo Times