Nov. 31, 2020 (GIN) – Amidst a swirl of silver-wrapped bite-size chocolate drops, the Pennsylvania-based Hershey Company webpage tells you to make Hershey’s Kisses a part of your life.
Because the more chocaholics in the world, the better for shareholders of Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle and other famed chocolatiers. The global chocolate industry is worth $100 billion, according to national research figures, but hardly any of those profits make it back to the two top growers in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
This year, the chocolate giants agreed to share profits with African farmers – returning $400 a ton in what was called “a living income differential (LID).” But African cocoa regulators in Ivory Coast and Ghana soon discovered that Hershey was buying cacao on the futures market, thereby avoiding the differential they were supposed to pay.
The two West African countries now say they have withdrawn from membership in a U.S. cocoa industry association, accusing it of helping companies including Hershey avoid paying the LID.
The Cocoa Merchants Association of America (CMAA) is “condoning and conniving with American companies against poor West African cocoa farmers”, they declared in an angry letter.
Hershey and Mars strenuously denied the charge. “While we do not discuss details of our specific buying and hedging activities, we buy cocoa from a variety of suppliers and sources to meet our ongoing business needs,” they said.
But their actions were profiled last month in a Bloomberg news article headlined “Hershey Is Behind Big Cocoa Trade That Upended N.Y. Markets.”
Payment of the income differential certifies cocoa, which is sustainably sourced, free of environmental and human rights abuses such as using child labor or being grown in a protected forest. This allows companies to market their chocolate as ethical and charge a premium for it.
But decades after the chocolate industry pledged to cut child labor, a report sponsored by the U.S. government shows the problem has actually gotten worse and the odds are substantial that a chocolate bar bought in the United States is the product of child labor.
About 43% of children in growing areas were carrying out hazardous activities in the 2018-19 season, according to the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. That’s up from 30% a decade earlier.
Some 1.48 million children are engaged in hazardous child labor in Ghana and Ivory Coast, NORC found. Fairtrade International estimates the number is likely higher. “We’re shocked but not surprised,” they were quoted to say. “It is legitimate to ask why child labor is still rife in the industry.” w/pix of Ivorian child laborer