Children ‘still exploited by chocolate industry’

Chocolate is often produced by child workers and other labourers who are not given basic rights, a report by Swedwatch, the Church of Sweden and Råd & Rön magazine has shown.

The report shows that people working in cacao production often work in poor conditions and that the industry creates environmental problems.

Chocolate production has been criticized in the past, including in a documentary from Channel 4 in Britain, which showed how young boys were exploited as slave workers in Cote d’Ivoire.

The report was followed by a number of surveys by international organizations, which showed that working conditions in the cacao industry were often very poor. Around 284,000 children and young people were estimated to work in production of cacao, the main raw ingredient for chocolate.

The reports led to strong protests around the world, and the chocolate industry promised to improve things. A system for verifying working conditions was due to be in place by July 2005, but the industry has now delayed this to 2008.

The new report shows that little has changed, Råd & Rön writes. The report is based on interviews with growers, international organizations and former labourers.

Working conditions are still poor, and wages low. There are no trade unions and children are still used for work that is often tough and straining.

The report also says that children are occasionally tricked out of their pay and kept in almost slave-like conditions. The background to this is that growers are badly paid for their cacao.

“Tricking and exploiting their workers is a way for growers to balance the books,” says Örjan Bartholdsson at Swedwatch, an organization that monitors Swedish business relationships with developing countries.

Growers also use strong pesticides, which make workers sick.

Swedwatch has also investigated Nestlé, Kraft-owned Marabou and Cloetta Fazer, all of which by cacao from West Africa. The companies say they take responsibility for ensuring their suppliers follow ethical rules, but the report said their systems for ensuring compliance were failing.

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TT/The Local