Chocolate is happiness, pure pleasure, a little bit of heaven if I might say. Who can say that the sweet chocolate that we eat on Christmas and holidays (everyday if you’re a fatty like me) can be a source of destruction? We, not in our wildest dreams, can imagine that chocolate can be harmful or bad in any way. The whole concept of chocolate being bad is too difficult to wrap our heads around. Chocolate is a $60 billion industry with its foundations standing on not so sweet truths.
Belgium is at the forefront of European chocolate since the 19th century. Innovation in chocolate treats like Pralines has earned Belgian chocolate a distinct name. Their products are like sweet indulgences, a remarkable way to treat yourself. Their products are more like pieces of art and the industry is the National pride. It is probably the only country where you can see Chocolate engineers. With more than 2000 artisanal shops Belgian chocolate is the leader of chocolate industry without a doubt. The chocolate is designed to melt in your mouth. Their custom chocolate boxes are considered one of the best gifts you can give someone. All of this aside, If you want to enjoy eating chocolate, you must be proud of where it comes from. But this is where the dark side beings as the whole chocolate industry is rife with corruption, violation, and exploitation.
All players in chocolate industry and intertwined in a complex web of a cruel supply chain. This supply chain keeps the profits away from those who need them the most. Everyone is aware of this fact but nobody can find a solution. It’s about basic human compassion and consciousness. If you’re aware of what goes on at the beginning of this supply chain, you would never enjoy another chocolate in your life. Most of us Buy chocolates based on the country where it’s manufactured, Switzerland or Belgium, but the source for all the cocoa in the world is Africa, as cocoa only grows in certain latitudes. 60% of world’s chocolate comes from West Africa (Ghana, Ivory Coast etc.)
Cheap labor and farmer Exploitation:
Cocoa production accounts for 15% of the GDP but the dilemma is Ivorians have little to say in pricing of their most valuable export. The price is controlled from thousands of miles away, in international markets in London and New York. Compared to all other crops in the world, cocoa is still harvested like medieval times as laborers and farmers are virtually paid nothing, so any advancement is totally out of question. The giants in chocolate industry exploit the cocoa farmers; if you can get something by cheap labor, why invest in expensive machinery. There is no need for the forced child labor and the kind of brutality that is happening in Africa but it’s the corporate hunger for making profits that is at the root of this inhumane behavior.
Chocolate is an affordable luxury, at the expense of misery and exploitation of others. Earning model of chocolate industry is farmer poverty. Farmers are paying the real price for our cheap chocolates. A handful of powerful companies started out a pyramid scheme for farmers in Africa and most people ended up selling their cocoa. They still haven’t been paid. Cocoa farmers earn less than $2 a day, what chocolate industry is doing in Africa can only be called modern slavery. Children are trafficked into the Africa where they’re forced to work in precarious conditions. Some of these children who succeeded in escaping from a forced camp told that physical violence was a part of their lives, they were locked in to stop them from escaping and whipped for working slow.
We as people living in a developed, first world country cannot even imagine circumstances like this but for some people this is their whole life.
How to Eliminate Slavery:
If we want to eliminate slavery from the chocolate business, the middleman should be eliminated from the cocoa trade. Companies should physically know the group of farmers they’re getting their cocoa from. There should be a fixed price per pound or per kilo of cocoa and the farmers should be paid directly so they can at least get minimum wage income. Paying at least a minimum wage to these farmers is the basic human decency, not charity.
Chocolate industry could eliminate this exploitation of human rights a long time ago. Instead, they decided to let it all sweep under the matt because they didn’t want their profits to go down. The need of the hour is that major chocolate companies should give power in the hands of the cocoa farmers.
This whole situation can only be controlled with the empowerment of the people who own the land. Companies who have bought cocoa from the people at cheaper rates should not be allowed to keep those lands and they must be returned to local farmers. That is the only way the local population can be uplifted and empowered and this deliberate extortion of human rights can be stopped.
Role of consumers:
Consumers play an important role in diminishing the chocolate industry’s injustices. By stopping purchasing chocolates with sourced cocoa from West Africa and buying vegan chocolates instead the industry can be forced to change its brutal business practices.
Chocolate is a guilty pleasure for most of us. But next time you eat a chocolate bar make sure your conscious is completely at ease. If it’s not, you might want to reconsider buying the brand.