Fair Trade Chocolate Takes the Trick Out of Trick or Treat

| 10/26/2012 5:02:47 PM

Every Halloween my mother would gather us all around after we had gone trick or treating, and asked for her Chocolate Tax, a small fee for enjoying the benefits of being her children. She may have worried about how much we were eating, but it didn't cross her mind to worry about whether or not the chocolates were Fair Trade. Chocolate was a staple in our home, as it was and remains in many homes throughout America. Hot cocoa, candy bars, chocolate chip cookies — chocolate is everywhere! Chocolates 

There is a huge market for chocolate, not only in the United States, but worldwide.The global chocolate market is projected to be worth $98.3 billion annually by 2016, according to MarketandMarket, a global market research company. That level of profit creates a strong incentive for companies to seek profit at all costs. When those costs start to include people, we have to wonder if the candy we’re eating has come down a long pipeline of exploitation and mistreatment of people farther down the food chain. Far too often it has.  

The chocolate that most of us eat is picked on farms primarily in Africa. A surprising number of agricultural workers are forced against their will to participate in the cultivation and harvesting of cocoa. Slavery and human trafficking are rampant in the industry and many of those who end up being trapped in this system are children. 

According to a report produced by Tulane University, in 2009, roughly 21 percent of children in Cote d’Ivoire and 47 percent of children in Ghana had been involved in cocoa farming operations within the last year. The majority of our chocolate comes from this region of Africa, and the proportion of children who are involved in the industry is alarming.

Cocoa is not the only agricultural industry that employs child labor, nor is it alone in utilizing trafficked or forced labor, but it is one of the more dangerous. In the Tulane study, it was discovered that around 50 percent (49.4 in Cote d’Ivoire and 53.7 in Ghana) of child workers in cocoa were injured on the job within the last year. This is compared to 25 and 37 percent in other agricultural fields in the same regions. Chocolate is dangerous, and if we aren’t careful about our purchases, we become tacit supporters of a system that trades childhood for chocolate.

Many of the brands that we know and love are involved in this system in very real ways. Hershey’s scored an “F” rating on its labor practices according to GreenAmerica.org. This means that they lack the Fair Trade, USDA Organic, UTZ, IMO Fair ForLife, and Rainforest Alliance certifications that ensure that they are following fair labor and environmental practices. But it’s only one company, so it can’t make that big of a difference, right? Wrong, Hersey’s controls more than a 40 percent share of the United States chocolate market. What it does as a company has a huge impact on the entire industry. Endangered Species Chocolates 

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