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Chocolate: product of slavery

Face of a slave

Modern slavery
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. That is more than twice the number of people ‘exported’ from Africa during the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Nowadays, it’s not about buying and selling people, but about exploiting their labour. As a result of population expansion and economic growth, many people have not benefited from the new global economy.

From the poverty of the unheard, it’s often a short step to invisibility from the law - a corrupt police force is one way. From there, people can be controlled through violence and fear.

handcuffs

The bigger picture
Many people do not realise that when they eat a chocolate bar, they could well be eating the product of slave labour.

The cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast grow half the world’s cocoa, and it is estimated that 90% of the plantations use slaves. Whilst the greed of the plantation owners is a key factor, there’s a bigger picture, too.

Ivory Coast has huge debts to the IMF and World Bank. Although these have been ‘rescheduled’ there are conditions attached. One condition was that the government could no longer buy all the cocoa at a fixed price.

slave labourers

Impact of world economics
Under the old system, the plantation owners knew what price his cocoa crop would make, and so could plan accordingly.

The government would trade the cocoa on the world market, so it could act as a sort of cushion against major price fluctuations. Under the new system, the cocoa buyers of the world were able to buy direct from the plantation owners, which meant that when prices fell there was an immediate impact on the income of the farmers.

As they were paid less for their crops, they couldn’t afford to pay their workers, and so many turned to slavery.

working hard

Consumer action is needed
Many of the young men enslaved upon the plantations come from neighbouring poor countries in search of work.

They are often promised good wages, but once they reach the isolated plantations, they are at the mercy of the owners, who can use fear to control them. They have nowhere to turn to, and so are trapped.

Yet ironically, if people in the North immediately stopped buying chocolate, it would actually make matters worse. Prices would fall further; farmers would earn less, and need slaves even more. So consumers must persuade companies to support fair trade practices.