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Danish TV programme misrepresents cocoa farming, Caobisco

By Jane Byrne , 19-Mar-2010

Representatives of the EU confectionery sector, Caobisco, has said claims made in a Danish documentary about child labour are a misrepresentation of the facts about cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast.

The Copenhagen Post reports that the television documentary from the public broadcaster DR indicated the problem of child labour on cocoa plantations was so widespread that even fair trade organisations could not guarantee that their chocolate was produced according to internationally accepted standards with regard to child labour.

And subsequent to the screening of the programme, a parliamentary majority in Denmark is now seeking a tightening of labelling regulation on chocolate used by Danish companies.

The Danish government is been urged by a range of cross-party politicians there to ensure that Danish companies must state on their products’ labels whether chocolate used in the food’s production came from plantations that used child workers.

And, Jesper Moller, CEO of Danish chocolate maker Toms, told Danish television that the company strives to purchase chocolate produced in Ghana, where, he said, working conditions are considerably better than in other cocoa producing African countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.

Caobisco, in response, said that while labour practices on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast are a recognised issue, with too many children participating in hazardous farming tasks or working at the expense of attending school, the Danish TV programme’s description of ‘slavery’ is wholly inaccurate and also culturally insensitive, since the vast majority of children are living with their families or relatives.

“In rare instances, children may work on cocoa farms having travelled away from their parents or immediate family. We believe that no child should ever be harmed in the process of growing or harvesting cocoa,” said Caobisco in a statement.

The confectionery and chocolate sector representatives stressed that industry condemns the worst forms of child labour or forced adult labour in the cocoa supply chain.

And the chocolate and cocoa sector, continued the association, has been committed to a programme of investment and improvement of social conditions in cocoa producing countries since 2001. “We do not claim that we can do this alone. It is for this reason that we work with governments and the European institutions, donor agencies, NGOs and all other stakeholders to make the essential difference."

Collectively, said Caobisco, the stakeholders have spent more than $75m supporting cocoa farming families and their communities through 40 programmes, which have boosted farmers incomes by 20 per cent and in some cases 55 per cent, and have taught them acceptable labour practices and the importance of access to education for children.

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