Industry backs EU call on cocoa child labour and warns 100% certified is no guarantee

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European parliament European union European cocoa association

Industry backs EU call on cocoa child labour and warns 100% certified is no guarantee
The chocolate and cocoa industry has backed an EU resolution to tackle child labour in cocoa production and warns children may still have produced cocoa that is 100% certified.

The European Parliament’s Trade Committee recently adopted a resolution and recommendations aimed at eradicating child labour in cocoa plantations in Africa.

Isabelle Adam, general secretary of the European Cocoa Association (ECA), told​ that cocoa child labour was complex and could not be resolved by the EU alone.

She added that there were no guarantees that chocolate products that used 100% certified cocoa were free from child labour.

Development issue

“It’s not easy to affect change rapidly. There are no quick fix solutions.”​ she said.

The ECA, along with the Association of chocolate, biscuit and confectionery (CAOBISCO), the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC) and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) wants to see “a holistic and coordinated framework”​ to affect change.

Asked what this meant, Adam said: “The EU cannot alone change the way the agricultural sector works.”

“If all the stakeholders involved play their part, from industry, to civil society, to governments (both in the consuming countries and the producing countries), we can effect sustainable change.”

She added that education was key because there was a low rate of literacy among farmers who tended to encourage their children to help on farms.

“You have to respect this tradition,”​ she said.

Does child labour benefit confectioners?

Asked whether stamping out child labour could negatively impact cocoa production and lead to price hikes hitting confectioner’s profits, Adam said: “There is absolutely no economic interest for us in having children involved.”

Similarly, Sabine Nafziger, secretary general of CAOBISCO told this site: “There is no direct link between prices of products to the final consumer and the achievements towards the eradication of child labour.”

Certification is no guarantee

Adam said that less than 35% of the world’s cocoa supply was certified.

She feared that if the EU allowed only 100% certified cocoa to be traded it would harm the incomes of thousands of farmers in Africa , lead to shortages and impact developing countries that rely on cocoa farming.

She added that it was not a given that 100% certified cocoa was not produced by a child because farms were not audited on a daily basis.

Fairtrade Foundation also says that it cannot provide guarantees, but would take immediate action following a breach.

“For the time being there is not a 100% guarantee. That’s why we need to be working on the root causes,"​ said Adam.

According to the ECA head, poverty seems to be at the heart of the issue.

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Pros of child labour

Posted by Peter,

Well said Rhonda. Education is the way to go, but the children should be allowed, even encouraged, to work in their family farms in humane family conditions.

I started working in the family business when I was 10 or 11, during the school holidays and sometimes after school. it was fun actually, working with grownups and seeing how things work in the real world.

Since then, I have obtained an honours business degree, am a non-practising barrister, and have run my own business for over 20 years - and have the conceit to believe that I am a reasonably well adjusted person - so a bit of child labour didn't hurt me.

Where children are being denied an education because they have to work, that is of course undesirable and efforts to change this should be fully supported. Having said that, policymakers should be aware that the imposition of a prescriptive paternalism by outsiders (as has happened to various indigenous populations around the world) can be very counter productive. Are we learning from those experiences?

The media have reported instances of child slavery, which is of course totally unacceptable, but should not be confused with "child labour" - which, to the contrary, often occurs in a family environment in a home village. I'm not sure that all western social campaigners make the distinction in the context of third world societies.

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Pros of child labor

Posted by Rhonda,

I am concerned with the efforts of government entities in trying to eradicate child labor. National child labor laws took effect in the 1930's, with a declining work ethic following. It is frustrating to raise children in an environment with work outside the home is unavailable or illegal. They learn life lessons most easily when younger than labor laws allow them to work.

While there is potential for abuse in a system that allows children to work, something that is difficult to do is not necessarily bad. Ask anyone of character how they became strong, and they'll tell you of some sort of hard thing they had to do.
The way to get out of poverty is education, along with hard work to help the family survive while going through schooling! Banning children from working at all results in what we see in our nation now- generations of grown-up children with a defective sense of responsibility, who think they deserve something for nothing. Please allow child labor rules to be managed at the local level, by the people it affects.

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