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Global Exchange against child slavery in production of chocolate
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Saturday, 23 February 2002
San Francisco - As the world celebrated the Valentine’s Day, the international human rights organisation, Global Exchange, launched a grassroots Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign to pressure the chocolate industry to take substantial steps to help end modern day child slavery and poverty wages in the production of cocoa.
“When most people bite into a piece of chocolate this Valentine’s Day, it is unlikely that they will consider where the chocolate comes from. If they knew, it probably wouldn’t taste as sweet,” says Deborah James, Fair Trade Director at San Francisco-based Global Exchange.

Recent investigations have uncovered a re-emergence of child slavery and oppressive labour conditions in the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast, the origin of 43% of the world’s chocolate. In recent years approximately 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 have been sold into forced labour on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations in the north of the country, according to the US State Department.

In San Francisco, the citizens held protests and rallies to call on See’s Inc., one of the largest Valentine’s Day retailers, to take immediate steps to end child slavery in the cocoa fields. Similar actions were planned in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Phoenix and Seattle, among other cities.

Cocoa prices are currently in a slump, a casualty of global overproduction. In order to maintain their profits, plantation owners in developing countries have turned to child slavery and paying adult workers poverty wages in order to keep the price of labour down.

“We are asking US chocolate companies like See’s Candies, Inc. to help end child slavery and unfair labour practices by buying at least 5% of their chocolate as Fair Trade Certified. Because of the low prices they pay for cocoa and their immense profits from the chocolate they sell, these corporations are benefiting from child slavery and unjust labour conditions. If the corporations really wanted to abolish child slavery and worker exploitation, they have the power to do so,” adds James.

Recently Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) had called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a voluntary labelling system to indicate which brands of chocolate were produced without the use of child labour. In addition, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill to suspend federal subsidies for the US chocolate industry unless child slavery practices are stopped.

Source: CHILD LABOUR NEWS SERVICE, Feb. 15, 2002
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